Saturday, December 13, 2008
6 long months of agony, alcohol abuse, career-advancing-opportunities, and other various activities had caused this issue to take somewhat of a detour. After meeting up in June to decide which submissions would be accepted all the editors found themselves in a tightly woven groove that involved advancing their college degrees and working nonstop. Therefore the print issue was pushed aside for a while. But now that we had time to sit down and lay it out - we kicked it's ass.
But alas! It is finally done! It had some of the best work we've seen yet! So to get your FREE copy email us, call us, text us. Do whatever you can to get in touch with us and we'll send you a bunch of copies and maybe some stickers if you ask nicely.
And remember: keep submitting, people.
All accepted submissions will appear on the site and the best of the best will appear in print. So keep 'em coming!
Friday, December 12, 2008
Yes Yeungling. That’s what’s great about parties at this house, they always got Yeungling. It was delicious and no doubt better than the typical cheap college beer, Nati Ice, Keystone, Ice House. They took advantage of the great deal at the local discount liquor store: a 24 pack for fifteen dollars; they loose six bottles compared to the typical cheap college beer but it’s worth it for the taste. I twisted the cap off and took a good first chug. Now I’m ready to be here. I walked back into the living room. Melissa already found a comfy spot on the couch and a make-out buddy. I could never feel comfortable making out with someone in the middle of a party for everyone to watch. She always bragged about it afterwards; well except with that one guy who began to slightly stalk her afterwards. She definitely regretted that one, and had actually stopped making out with guys at parties for a short while. But I guess if she’s having fun more power to her. Melissa was wearing a very short skirt, as usual, and I saw her new friend slide his hand up her leg. I looked away quickly. Another chug.
“Hey. Oh my gosh. I haven’t seen you in like forever.” Great it’s the way-too-cheerful Cheriyl. She reminded me of a puppy self combusting from over excitement. “Hey” I said with about a fifth of the excitement she had in her voice. I listened to her yap without absorbing a word she said. This was typical; she’s very good at having conversations without the other person having to contribute. I surveyed the room, hoping to find a better companion tonight than Cheriyl. And there he was. Danny Mitchell. He didn’t see me at first but he must have felt my eyes because he suddenly turned away from his conversation and his eyes caught mine. He revealed a slight smile and I quickly turned my attention back to Cheriyl, who was still yapping. I tried to concentrate on what she was saying, hoping to find a safe way to end the conversation. She was on the topic of how she spent last year’s Spring Break. “That sounds great” I said. “I know right?” she said. I chugged the rest of my beer. With fake disappointment of ending the conversation short I said, “Looks like it’s time for another.”
I escaped back to the fridge, glad to be free of her but trapped thinking about Danny. I don’t know how he expects me to act. I haven’t seen him in at least half a year, well besides that brief time at another party when we didn’t talk at all. I closed the fridge and suddenly warm, strong arms were wrapped around me. “Long time, Jen,” he said. I turned, “Yeah it has, Danny.” We stared at each other until it became awkward so I twirled my blonde hair around my finger, hoping it made me look more cute than nervous. Then Danny asked, “Do you like pomegranates?” That’s what’s great about Danny, he skips the How are you? Fine and you? Good, what’s new… boring singsong nonsense. He just starts talking about whatever’s on his mind. I used to find this weird but I’ve really come to appreciate it. “Yeah, I like how they are the opposite of typical fruit because you eat the seeds,” I answered. “Well I’ve just discovered them and I’ve really taken a liking to them.” He has great hair: dark, soft, just the right amount of greasiness and it always slightly covers his seductive blue eyes. “What you been up to?” he asked. “The usual. I can’t believe this is my last semester of school,” I said. “Take advantage of it, it goes by quick.” Danny graduated last year. I know I must have looked like a retard beaming back at him, but I couldn’t help it I was so glad he was talking to me and I could still feel the warmth from his hug surging through me like the first sip of hot rum cider. Like I said, it had been awhile and we were at a point where it didn’t seem like we cared about the other’s life or were even interested in seeing each other. We just became distant for no reason at all. But that all seemed like such a little blip in the past. I was glad now. He was like my favorite TV show starting up again after the writer’s strike.
“Jen come here, you’ve got to see this,” Melissa slurred as she appeared suddenly between Danny and me. As she pulled me away, like a mother pulling her daughter from her favorite swing, I looked back at Danny and gave him an apologetic smile. We plopped down on the couch next to Melissa’s make-out partner, who was impressively cute, now that I could see his face. What I had to see was a video on this guy’s camera of Melissa apparently drunk and hilarious at a previous party. After that entertaining show and my reassurance that she was in fact hilarious, Melissa returned to her make-out session. I returned to my Yeungling and my contemplative isolation while observing the room. Everyone was in little groups. Four people debating their ensemble of the perfect band in heaven: “And John Frusciante on the guitar.” “But he’s still alive.” “I know but he’s awesome, he’ll be dead some day.” Three people on that couch discussing who they were going to vote for in the next election without having any real support for their views: “Well Obama sounds too much like O Sama so that’ll never happen.” And two people in the doorway to the kitchen downing their shots of vodka “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe you’re making me do this.” You got to love the diversity and intelligence of college students and their solo cup politics. I used to be friends with these people but somehow I am just growing apart from them. They still want to have these ritualistic parties they’ll never truly remember. I just want to move on.
Where did he go? Once I began to feel uncomfortable with Melissa and her mouth-fixated-guy-friend rubbing against me, I got another beer and decided to check how the upstairs looked, and hoped to casually run into him again. I inspected the main room with its beer pong and other various drinking games, he was nowhere. Then I saw blue light floating out of the cracked door of the back room. I took a chug and walked as confidently as the Yeungling would allow at that moment toward the blue light. There he was, sitting on the bed all alone, the blue light creating this mystical version of him as if he were outlined in bold and everything else in the room was a blur. He’s the reason I came tonight. “Hey, you want a hit?” He asked as he held the joint out to me. “Sure,” I answered. He moved over to make a space for me to sit and said, “Close the door behind you.” I did, then walked over to the bed and sat next to him. I was alone with him at last and we were glowing blue.
Once we were finished smoking, we sat in silence and allowed our selves to just be. And then he kissed me. I forgot he had a tongue ring and how great it felt to kiss him. I don’t know what it was about Danny that made me feel this way, like a peach turned inside out, you know all fuzzy on the inside? I just knew that no one else made me feel that way. While we laid together on the bed he said, “At the last party I didn’t talk to you because I had a girlfriend back home.” I told him he didn’t have to explain himself to me. “But I want to. I ignored you the best I could because-” He paused. “Because I was afraid if I was near you I wouldn’t be able to not kiss you.” I didn’t say anything. We were both quiet just lying there in the blue haze.
Soon he was asleep, practically snoring with his mouth parted, his jaw slightly lower than the top of his mouth, like gravity was too powerful even for his strong jaw. His right eye was squished against the pillow and his eyebrow raised as if questioning me, but I had no idea what the question was. I looked him over and ran my hand from his face down his shirt and over his mole next to his bellybutton which made him look like he had a slightly off center outie. He’s the only ritual I will miss. I kissed him on the forehead. Until next time. I left the room, closing the door behind me and leaving Danny to dream about blue lights, hazy nights and whatever girl he wanted.
The noon crowd was gone now leaving the two of them alone, except for Jimmy the bartender, who dozed on a stool at the far end of the room.
Glenn Becker turned his chair halfway toward the nodding figure. “I always worry when he does that.”
“Why?” His friend Larry had come straight over from work and still had his nametag clipped to his shirt pocket.
“Someday he’s gonna fall. Break his skull or something.”
“Jimmy? Nah. He’s been practicing that routine for years, got it down pat.”
“This place depresses me when it’s empty like this. You can see how crummy it really looks.” Glenn moved his beer glass around in a little circle. “Think they’ll ever upgrade?”
“Change Dugan’s? Hell no. The way it is it’s kind of a landmark, like, with historical value, you know? Besides, if they upgrade Dugan’s the rest of the neighborhood will look even more crappy by comparison.”
“Maybe you’re right.” Glenn turned back toward the table, the legs of his chair grinding on the dusty floor. “Jeez, how long we been coming here now?”
“If you count when we used to try to sneak in after school I’d say fourteen, fifteen years. But I don’t get over here so much anymore. No reason to, not with you off teaching at that college. Besides, Ruthie gets pissed when I do. I swear that woman can smell a beer at two hundred feet, at least.”
“Why two hundred feet?” Glenn laughed.
“That’s how long my driveway is. Says she can smell it as soon as I turn in off the street.”
“At least you got somebody to come home to.”
“Stop, dammit. Stop right now.” Larry smacked his palms down on the table. “It’s three days to Christmas and I’ll be damned if you’re gonna get all mopey on me. Would it kill you to cheer up some?”
“Okay. I hear you. Look, I’m smiling.” Glenn tilted his head back and bared his teeth, more grimace than grin.
“Shit. I’ve seen better smiles on dead people.”
“I’m gonna go wake up Jimmy, get us a couple more beers.”
“Get a pitcher.” Larry threw a five on the table. “And don’t sneak up on him. If you scare him he really might fall.”
When Glenn got back to the table Larry had lit up.
“When did you start smoking again?”
“I didn’t. I just keep a few around for emergencies, and, from the looks of you, I think I’m gonna need one, or several, maybe.” Larry took a deep drag then blew a column of smoke toward the ceiling. “Because now you’re gonna tell me what’s got your panties in a bunch. I don’t really wanta hear it but I don’t seem to have much choice.”
“You sure?” Glenn topped off both their glasses and foam spilled over the rims.
“Go ahead, dammit, before I change my mind.”
“Well, I been thinking.” Glenn leaned forward, elbows on the table.
“That’s how it usually starts with you. Maybe if you didn’t think so much….”
“Listen, have you ever wondered, like, if they gave out letter grades for life, what
you’d get?” Glenn said.
“Oh, God, I’m not ready for this.” Larry rubbed his eyes with his fists. “In the first place, I don’t know what you’re talking about, and second, push those peanuts over here. The way you’re wolfing them down I’ll be lucky to get any.”
“How can you eat peanuts and smoke at the same time?” Glenn shoved the bowl across the table.
“That’s my problem. It just so happens I can’t stand the taste of cigarettes. Now go on or you’ll be at this all afternoon.”
“What I mean is, based on how good you’ve lived, you’d get a grade--A, B, C, or something like that.”
“Wouldn’t make any difference.” Larry took a long swig of his beer. “Everybody gets an F.”
“Everybody dies, moron.”
“That’s not what I mean. The grade would depend on how good your life has been, not whether you live or die. A good guy would get a good grade and a bad guy….” He looked straight at Larry. “I won’t mention names, but a bad guy would get something else.”
“Man, I shoulda’ seen this coming. Every time you get drunk around the holidays you start dishing out some senseless philosophical bullshit. To begin with, who’s gonna say whether you’ve been bad or good? Santa Claus?”
“I don’t know. God, I guess.”
“No way, sport. Last time we talked you claimed to be an atheist, remember?”
“I’m rethinking that now.” Glenn tore his paper napkin into little strips and piled them neatly in front of him.
“Just tell me how getting drunker helps you think clearer. And why the hell can’t we just have a normal conversation sometime?” He threw a peanut shell at Glenn.
“How about basketball?”
“I think I’ll go over and talk to Jimmy. Even half asleep he makes more sense than you do.” Glenn pushed his chair back.
“Hang on, my fine-feathered friend.” Larry pinned Glenn’s arm to the table. “I’ll explain this so even you can understand it. What happens at the end of basketball season?”
“Leading to what?” Larry leaned in closer.
“A national champion.”
“And how many national champions can there be?”
“Oh, that’s a tough one. Lemme see. Is this like, multiple choice?” Glenn cradled his chin in his thumb and forefinger, frowning as if deep in thought.
“Come on, you turd, how many?”
Glenn stuck up his middle finger and smiled.
A man wearing grimy blue coveralls stepped through the front door, took a look around the room, then left without a word. Jimmy appeared to nod at him, or maybe it was just a forceful sigh.
“Right. One national champion.” Larry held up his own middle finger. “Every other team fails. So, there’s one A, and only one. If you want to get technical about it you can give the runner-up team a B, maybe Cs to the semi-finalists.”
“I suppose somewhere in your twisted mind you think you’ve made a point.”
“What I’m trying to show you is how ridiculous your idea about grades for life is. Who gets the A? The one and only A? And, for that matter, what difference does it make? By next season nobody remembers anyway.”
“That’s not what it’s all about. It’s not just a matter of winning or losing.”
“Oh, my God, you’re not gonna say it. Please, tell me you’re not gonna say it.” Larry let out a little groan, then leaned back and covered his eyes with his forearm.
“It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game. Spare me that one.”
“That’s exactly what I mean, you asshole.”
Larry laughed as he drained his glass. He snorted and a trickle of beer ran out his nose. “Damn, this is the best part of you coming home for the holidays--talking nonsense. What was it last year? Global warming? Save the whales?”
“Coming from you, who’s never had a serious thought in his entire life, I’ll take that as a compliment.”
“Look, I know you’re serious. But the only way that grading thing could ever work would be if you got some kind of mid-term report. You know, when the old professor tells you where you’re doing okay and where you need to improve. Otherwise the idea of a final grade is inherently unfair. You oughta know that, being a teacher.”
“Much as I hate to admit it, there’s some logic to that.”
“Why is this bothering you so much? You worried about something? Damn, wait, I can guess. You finally got into Marcia’s pants, didn’t you? You dog. Now you’re having some sort of stupid guilt trip. Leave it to you to have remorse over sex.”
“No, that’s not it.”
“What, you didn’t get into her pants?”
“You’re missing the point, as usual. This is not some sort of post-coital remorse thing.”
“Post-coital remorse, now there’s one I haven’t heard before. Maybe I oughta write that down.” Larry pulled a pen from his pocket and made a big show of scribbling on a damp cocktail napkin. “Spell coital for me, will you?”
“Don’t bother. Premature ejaculation would be more your style anyway.”
“Me? Premature? Never.”
“You know, once again you have succeeded in destroying a perfectly good conversation. Don’t you ever step back and look at your life, wonder if you’re doing what you should be doing?”
“I know one thing, Glenn, my boy. In the end, whether you’ve done good, bad or indifferent, all it amounts to is a bunch of people standing around a hole in the ground—probably in the rain—and when they lower you in they don’t put a letter grade on your casket. All they put in is dirt. And that’s that.”
“Full of sound and fury signifying nothing.”
Glenn sighed. “Shakespeare.”
“Oh, yeah. I forgot you’re a big college professor. But I agree with the part about signifying nothing.”
“I’m sure he’d take great comfort in that fact.”
“Fuck you. For that matter, fuck Shakespeare, too. What grade did he get? Come on, before we get too drunk let’s go over to the park and shoot hoops. That’ll give you a chance to contemplate the perfect arc of my jump shot as it soars over your head and lands in the basket.”
“Fat chance, asswipe. The only arc your jumper’s gonna take is the one where I swat it up into the bleachers.”
They ambled off down the street, crossed over by Davie’s Dry Cleaners where a single wreath embossed with red ribbon hung in the doorway, and took the path that ran alongside the rusted chain link fence. The narrow lane they followed had, over the years, been worn down several inches below ground level by countless pairs of sneaker-clad feet. At one time or another most of the residents of Centreville had followed that short path, diverging then along other routes, toward other destinations. But being on it again was to slip back in time; feet were quicker, lighter, younger somehow.
As they walked, trading the occasional playful shove, an elbow prodded into ribs, carefully barbed insults exchanged, a passerby might have suspected animosity, a fight to follow, perhaps; but it had always been this way. True, skirmishes had occasionally erupted over the course of their long friendship but any breach always healed over quickly. Relocation and the transition into adulthood had brought new responsibilities and limited their time together to holidays, but some things didn’t change.
Ahead lay the public basketball courts with worn tufts of yellowed grass peaking through cracks in the tarmac, and much like the bar they’d just left, empty on this late December afternoon.
Larry dribbled the ball to the top of the key and launched a shot that caught the front rim then caromed off toward the fence.
“Do you have to make so much noise when you shoot?” Glenn whined. “All that clanking hurts my ears.”
“I’m just getting warmed up, dickhead. Pretty soon all you’ll hear is swish swish—nothing but net.” He retrieved the ball, panting, then took another shot that hit nothing but air.
“Much better. That was a lot quieter.” Glenn held his sides, laughing, then made a big show of looking at his watch. “How long you figure it’ll take you to get warmed up? It’s only light out for another hour or so.”
Larry slapped the ball back at him. “Here, hotshot. See if you can do anything besides talk.”
When Glenn’s shot wedged between the rim and backboard Larry fell to his knees howling in laughter.
After many futile leaps at the ball both stood gasping, hands on their knees. “Damn,” Larry said. “In high school I could dunk.”
“Your memory’s gone south, my friend. The only time you ever dunked was standing on a chair.” Glenn found a broom handle lying against the fence and with a few vigorous pokes dislodged the ball. “Let’s get started. First to twenty. Loser buys the beer.”
After half an hour of lunging, shoving, grunting and cursing, after a barrage of shots, most of which clanged off the rim or hit nothing at all, Glenn dropped to one knee and rasped out, “You know, we suck.”
“You do for sure. I’m winning, remember?”
“Oh, yeah, what is it now? Six to four? At this rate even if we combine our scores it’ll take us the rest of the weekend to reach twenty.”
Larry bounced the ball a couple of times then kicked it into the corner. “We could set aside this childish contest and behave like reasonable men.”
“Head back to the bar.”
Later, seated at the corner table again, a fresh pitcher in the center, Larry leaned back and burped loudly.
“Charming, thanks for sharing that,” Glenn tossed a pretzel at him.
“I knew you’d appreciate it.”
“You know, it’s amazing.”
“Jimmy. He woke up, filled the pitcher, took my money, now he’s back asleep
like nothing happened.”
“Told you, years of practice.” Larry tapped his forefinger on the table. “Say, listen, I’ve been thinking about your project, your letter grade idea. I can see how to solve your problem using my excellent analytical skills.”
“If your excellent analytical skills are anything like your excellent jump shot I don’t want to hear about it.” Glenn threw another pretzel at him.
“Listen and learn, and stop throwing food. Is this how you behave at that college? What I’m gonna do is make up a spreadsheet. Four columns: Good things you’ve done, bad things you’ve done, good things you could’ve done but didn’t, and bad things you could’ve done but didn’t. You get a plus one for every good thing you’ve done and for every bad thing you could have done but didn’t. And a minus one for every bad thing you did and for every good thing you could have done but didn’t. It’s a straight pass-fail system; more plusses, you pass, more minuses, you fail. Brilliant, huh?” Larry leaned back and folded his arms across his chest.
Glenn gazed up at the ceiling. “Brilliant is not the first word that comes to mind.”
“You got a better idea? I mean, you started the whole thing, remember? Besides, I think it’s pretty damned clever. I bet, once I get the kinks out of it, I can sell it, make some money off royalties. This could be big. There’s probably plenty of neurotic bozos out there, like you, who’ll pay for it.”
“Forget about it. I’m sorry I ever brought it up.”
“You know what your problem is?” Larry leaned forward. “You’re afraid to find out the truth. You’re afraid you might fail the test.”
Glenn ran his fingers up and down the frosted sides of his glass, tracing random patterns in the moisture.
“What’s with the silent treatment? You not gonna talk to me any more?”
“You’re right,” Glenn said softly.
“Yeah. I’m afraid I might fail it, and it scares the shit out of me. I mean, look at me. I’m pushing thirty and I teach philosophy at a community college to a bunch of people who could care less. It’s not like I’m grooming next year’s big thinkers. So, yeah, I’m afraid I might fail.”
“Ahh, now we’re getting somewhere. You, my very good friend, are having your usual holiday existential meltdown.”
“What the hell?” Glenn’s eyebrows shot up like twin question marks.
“Hey, I read books too, you know.”
“Hell, you make me sound like a mental case.”
“No worse than anybody else we know. But don’t worry; I’ve got you covered. First, lighten up, will you? Don’t be so damned serious. As usual, ol’ Larry is gonna save your worthless ass. Remember what I said about everybody deserves an interim report, so you know what to work on before the big final exam? Just for you, because you’re an old friend and you’re buying the beer, I’m gonna let you have a trial run of Larry’s Amazing Life Grade Assessment Device. Fill it out in the comfort of your own room, after you’ve paid me for it, of course. Then when you face that big final exam in the sky—assuming you still think there is one—you’ll ace it for sure. How’s that for a deal?”
“Damn.” Glenn let loose a long sigh, then chuckled. “I was dead serious about this thing when I brought it up. I’ve been stewing over it for a whole month.”
“I knew you were, dimwit. I know you a lot better than you think. You were like that as a kid; you’d latch onto something and worry it to death. And holidays were always the worst. Damned sure, next time you come back here it’ll just be something else. For all that high powered philosophy you teach, you haven’t changed.”
“You make it sound so simple.”
“It is, you big doofus, it is.”
“Hey, I’m the philosopher here, remember?”
“But you’re on the inside looking out. I got a better vantage point.”
For a moment the only sound in the room was Jimmy’s soft snoring.
“The worst part, what I hate most, is when you’re right.” Glenn shook his head slowly.
“Hold on. I’m gonna get Jimmy over here. I want a witness to hear you say that.”
“How in hell does your wife put up with you?” Glenn laughed softly.
“Same way you do, good buddy, same way.” He slid his glass across the table and clinked it against Glenn’s. “To old friends, one of whom has an amazing jump shot.” Larry thumped his chest, ape-fashion.
The lights over the doorway flickered, just before the entire string went out. Jimmy looked up from his barstool perch. “Aw, shit.” Then went back to sleep.
“I’ll take it,” he tells the dealer, flashing a perfectly white smile, firmly shaking the dealer’s hand, knowing that he must make this decision quickly because he only has so much time on his lunch break.
(I’m planning on making Grant get into a car accident. Grant can die or Grant can live, that’s all up to me. I am at a crossroad with what I should do. You see, Grant comes off as a guy who has a lot of money, and no one likes those rich pricks. You know the type. Those guys who will be driving those fancy cars, swerving in and out of lanes on the highway while modestly over the speed limit and, even though you don’t let them, they cut you off and give you the pinky thank you because their hand is busy on their cell phone yelling at other employees because they’re rich and therefore snotty and mean. I should kill him. Killing an archetype that nobody likes makes everyone happy. When you can’t do it in real life, get away with it in creative prose.
But then again, maybe Grant deserves to live. He has done some noble things in his life. Grant has his own law firm, which “grants” ha ha people a new lease on life. He specializes in car accident claims, whose fault it was, etc. Trevor Grant really helps people out. He owns his own practice and works by himself, so he’s not using anyone to get to the top or anything, he’s quite good at what he does and truly earns the six-figure salary he makes. Grant should live and keep helping people with their problems in life. I mean, when you’re in a car crash, you think that everything’s over. Grant helps people see that this is not so. However, Trevor Grant is a lawyer.
Everyone hates the parasites that are lawyers, feeding off your emotional distress. The last thing that people want to think about after they get into a car accident and know that they’re going to be spending a lot of money on something knows the extravagant fees that come with lawyers. Especially a lawyer like Trevor Grant. It’s always fun to kill off a lawyer, regardless of how anyone feels about him. He’s a lawyer; they are hated by definition. All lawyers should die! Being a stupid teenager, I’ve never had the experience of dealing with a lawyer, but they are portrayed in a negative light everywhere in our society and it is always successful. That lawyer in Jurassic Park was eaten on a toilet! Michael Crichton knew that people hate lawyers so much that they degraded him by having him eaten by a Tyrannosaurus Rex while sitting on a toilet. Those silly lawyers. That movie made a lot of money. Trevor is a lawyer, and therefore should be killed off. I mean, wouldn’t it be ironic and literarily exquisite if he died in a car accident? Yes, he should die because people will love the fact that he dies and because it will be one of those really strange coincidences that belong to the Darwin Awards.
It would be sad however, to kill him off because of his situation with Heather. Trevor Grant loves Heather; he bought her a hideous bulldog puppy. Have you seen how truly ugly bulldogs are? The fact that he is willing to get a puppy which he will have to endure with longer than the average ugly bulldog is proof that he will do anything to make her happy. He’s allergic to dogs, too and he’s willing to get the hypoallergenic shot monthly so that he can live with a happy woman. Love would be a terrible thing to ruin by spiting Grant to death just because he is a lawyer. Heather, however, is not in love with him and his unibrow. Heather is obviously using him for his money.
Heather’s main goal in life is to be better than the Jones’s. With Trevor, she has found someone who will allow her to do this and have a “cute” puppy along with it. Trevor Grant is a rare breed indeed. The reader now sides with Grant and thinks that Heather should be killed in his stead, because she’s a superficial bitch who isn’t good for Trevor. She’s not good for him so she should be killed off, there will be no resentment.
There is also always the 1:140,000,000 chance that the earth can be hit by a huge meteor and kill everyone. The problem with a meteor is that it provides no resolution for any of the characters, which makes such an ending out of the question when trying to write a story that focuses on the dynamics of character.
Dammit, Grant. Just when things seem to be looking up for you, you have to say that thing about not having “to clean up a car’s shit,” showing that you hold resentment toward the dog. While it is understandable that you are allergic, that gives you no reason to speak with such negativity. Everybody loves puppies. If you hate puppies, especially puppies that are so ugly that they are pitied, you should die. Well, Trevor, the odds are against you now. I guess there’s only one thing left to do. Time to brainstorm.
Ending 1: Trevor Grant does all the paperwork and about a half hour later, drives out of the lot with his new shiny metallic blue BMW M3. At 12:03, Grant bids his last goodbye. At his first traffic light, he crashes it into a telephone pole because he is not used to how quickly a BMW M3 accelerates and the brake system is different from the beige Ford Taurus he used to drive.
And we are all happy.
I’m gonna give this ending a no because it’s the obvious ending and it’s what the reader wants. We want Grant to die, but this ending is too obvious. It won’t work.
Ending 2: Trevor Grant does all the paperwork and about a half hour later, drives out of the lot with his shiny new metallic blue BMW M3. He works late and gets home at about 12:03 in the morning where his wife greets him with a bullet to the face.
Trevor Grant is dead. And we are all confused.
The reader here will infer that Heather had a gun and found out that (gasp!) Trevor has been cheating on her for the past two years! This could work as one of those twist endings that come out of nowhere and make no sense but the reader loves anyways regardless of the lack of substance. It’s great to throw the reader for a loop and when he’s expecting all of these great things out of a character then Bam! something comes out of left field and ruins the pristine image granted to the character they have grown to love. Adultery works perfectly for this, which is why this ending could work.
Ending 3: Trevor Grant does all the paperwork and about a half hour later, drives out of the lot with his shiny new metallic blue BMW M3. On his way back to work, he sees that it is already 12:03 and he is late to get back to the office. He decides that he can be a bit late getting back because he never got a lunch and he wants to roll up in the drive-thru with the new ride. Smoothly pulling up next to the drive-thru menu, he is about to order his favorite when, out of nowhere, a smoldering rock soars overhead at blinding speed. Seconds later the shiny metallic blue paint of his BMW M3 peels off due to intense heat and Trevor Grant is vaporized from the heat a huge meteor striking the earth created.
OK, now I’m just playing around. A meteor? People will interpret this as an easy out, like I’m not smart enough to come up with an actual ending. Oh, these people. Do they not see the complexity of this story that I am writing? In one short paragraph, I have a multitudes of possibilities that can happen with a life and I can explore them all and have whatever I want happen in an effort to please the reader. The reader loves seeing characters die, especially characters that the reader would not like in real life. For many reasons, Trevor deserves to die.
Trevor is a lawyer. Trevor deserves to die.
Trevor is a rich prick. Trevor deserves to die.
Trevor does not like puppies. Trevor deserves to die.)
Trevor Grant drives out of the lot and goes back to work in his shiny new metallic blue BMW M3 Convertible. He is the envy of all the other drivers and when he gets back to the office, he has three miles on the odometer. He has a great rest of the day at work and is able to stay positive knowing that he just bought something that will bring him a lot of joy. At the end of the day, he drives home and Heather greets him at the door with a stern look on her face. She does not look pleased with his purchase.
Trevor nervously walks up to her and gives her a kiss on the cheek. “Hey babe,” he says, glancing at the sleek vehicle. “What do you think?”
She looks at the car, then looks at him and his proud eyes. “Boys will be boys,” she sighs.
“Come on, let me show you how it rides.”
They take an enjoyable drive with the fresh air combing their hair. They both have a great time talking about the lovely neighborhood that they live in and Heather discusses all of the cute things Bradley, the cute bulldog puppy, did today.
Upon returning back to their large home, Heather cooks an immaculate meal while Trevor watches SportsCenter. They engage in deep and meaningful conversation over the chicken cordon bleu. After dinner, they have wonderful, passionate sex and before going to sleep, each reads a chapter in the current bestseller they are reading. They tell each other that they love each other and go to sleep.
(Readers love unexpected endings better than predictable death.)
“A fine choice for a fine lady” said the waiter as he took her menu and held it under his arm so he could continue to exaggerate every word with his hands. Only the best and pure of breed are employed at such a strictly Italian restaurant. “And for the young gentleman?” His hands lowered as he said young, they clasped as if in prayer as he said gentleman. I don’t like praying, I’m not that short, and I think I won’t come here anymore.
“Penne.” I said.
“We have an assortment of wonderful-” his hands flailed wildly on wonderful but it never seemed like he went too far, I wish I could look so sure all the time, “-sauces on the third page. There’s marinara, vodk-”
“Stop, stop, stop, I saw the sauces. I’m very proud of you for memorizing your menu, I want penne.”
“Surely you wan-”
“Put some butter on it.”
“Of course.” He bowed. Spirit fingers are for musicals and should stay there.
I looked to my left. There are a lot of rich people here, they like spirit fingers and praying. They don’t notice me. To my right, a window, the city. People. Lots of them.
“What are you doing? Sit down.” She said worried, looking around to the people indulged in their food literally oblivious to me.
“I prefer candle light.” I said as I finished closing the curtain. While I do prefer candle light, I have no vendetta against street lights either. It is the eyes of the people wandering I could do without.
“You’re so inappropriate. Why do you have to be so…so…whatever.”
“You can’t possibly have meant something by that.”
“Just forget about it.” She said exhaling and scanning the room for any eyes that might be following them.
I exhaled too. A long sigh. “Done.”
The rest of our dinner was silent. My penne was excellent, her prime cut was expensive. The tip was cut lower. She still gave me a kiss when I put the money on the table. I hate the way that relationships are set up in the female’s favor sometimes. I pay for everything but she makes close to as much I do. I don’t have extra money to buy nice things for myself let alone her. But she goes shopping regularly. If she doesn’t have enough money to shop, it’s my fault. I feel used, but then again that money seemed worth the kiss. She should have been an actor. It really seems like she enjoys every minute of this, but I’m pretty sure she has a conscience which would certainly take that spring out of her step. It’s harder to put one foot in front of the other if it matters who is under your $120 heels.
The ride home was a tightrope walk. We got in the car and the center console was a 20 foot gap. As we nimbly closed the gap, showing our agile prowess, any sudden movement by the other could throw their partner off to certain humiliation. As the tension lifted in the car the rope became more erratic. Just trying to speak is reckless as I fumble with my words. “I’m sorry.”
She acted like she deserved every syllable. “I know,” is all she says avoiding my eyes in a stunt that would have made me fall completely over the side if it wasn’t part of the routine. My multi faceted girl could have been an acrobat on the side. By the end of the ride, we’ve switched sides, but are just as far away as before, and complacent with the stability. Not wanting to stray too far from the routine we shimmy down from the platforms and go our separate ways.
She quickly opened her passenger side door and went full stride to couch. Kicking off her shoes she let out a sigh of relief. After a day like today their soles would need a break to withstand another long callous tomorrow. My driver’s side door creaked open so slow that it stopped at every conveniently engineered resistance originally set to keep the door from hitting other parked cars. Instead it was keeping me from getting out. Each time, a chance to change my mind. Continue, or not.
I was not surprised as I got out and walked to the front door to make my next decision. Not surprised when I got to the kitchen. Or by my snack, making it to the living room, sitting speechlessly across from her. “You know,” she said looking me straight in the eye, “I really appreciate you putting up with me today. I was distracted. I think I failed the term paper I was working on all week. Don’t be upset with a lousy dinner, I’ll make you your favorite tomorrow.”
“What’s my favorite?”
“Surprises.” She said with a smile. “One of these days I’ll make you as happy as you make me.”
She should have been a lawyer. I’m convinced.
James only spoke in profound phrases other people had already said. James desperately wanted to be the first to say something, but hard as he tried, he failed. We all fail. That one was taken, too. James said goodbye to Anne with a Bible verse. Cheater. He only called her Anne after she passed. The word “mom” never felt right, anyway.
Some people just come out ordinary with no marks or distinguishing features of any kind. James’ body was smooth like sanded wood. James’ body was clay nobody bothered to sculpt. So he ran and ran and walked a little until his legs heaved more than his chest. He ran towards a feeling in his ribs. He opened his eyes and saw sand, cars, desolation. He saw East Texas.
James tried comprehending how far he ran, but numbers weren’t his thing. He figured, carry the two, he ran at least 1436 miles. For a split second, shorter than a split second, James wondered if this was death. Someone was thankful it wasn’t. So James walked towards civilization.
“Tell me everything,” said James.
“Everything sounds better on a full stomach,” she replied, almost too quickly.
“Give me bacon, eggs sunny side up and a metaphor nobody understands.”
“Coming right up.”
She kept her promise and explained what happened to Rick Cowlishaw after he molested his daughter and when the football team lost by 3 points but the other team cheated. She told him her name was Julia, but she didn’t explain why. James felt uneasy around her, but he did feel something, which was better than before. He asked her if he could stay at her house. Not like the way an old friend asks, but more like the way a crazy uncle does. Strangers don’t stay that way for long, especially when they sleep on your couch. Julia’s couch could use the company.
“Well it isn’t much, but it could be worse.”
“I have no idea what perfection looks like, and this probably isn’t it. I’m willing to be ignorant.”
Julia was moving slowly in the kitchen, vaguely aware of burnt toast, very aware of her swishing robe. You know, just in case James was her uncle. There was no attraction like normal people have. There was a want stronger than any scientific concept. The strongest things are those that take the most time. Or so she told herself. James showed no interest of doing anything other than sleeping on her floor and watching the news to get depressed and then drink away his depression. He washed dishes at her diner, but that was just for his hands. His mind needed something else. Julia wanted into his mind. She wanted to understand parts he didn’t even understand. Julia was going to lobotomize him out of love.
“ Why are you staring at me?”
“ I’m staring through you,” she said.
In another life, James would have loved Julia as easily as he would have left her. Something formed inside him during nights under the stars and days in the kitchen. James would imagine her smile when he was looking right at her. He knew everything about her without asking a single question. He hummed her favorite song while in the shower. James disguised time in the wrinkles on his face so she would never get bored.
“Remember when we met and you told me a metaphor that made no sense?”
“Yes, of course.”
“I get it now.”
Holding hands was one of those things James and Julia hated. Proving love wasn’t something that could be done, they figured. The point they started thinking the same thoughts, using the same brain, is unclear. But if you ask James, it was a Sunday without any shadows. Julia thought it was a Wednesday. Time blurs the most important memories. Consequently, Julia started wearing makeup.
“ Did you know this would happen?”
“ I knew we would happen.”
Who said what wasn’t important.
You know I luvvvv you girl!!
of this thing we started
Sketch paved highways, side streets, back roads
Draw in mountains, rivers, trees, and birds
Pencil in rest stops and road signs
Mark an “X” at our final destination
Or we can just keep driving
Windows down music glaring
The air freshener twirling
Ashes flying around our paved romance
Thoughts and dreams pass us by
Smoking too many cigarettes
Trees and back roads get erased
Birds dance in the wind
As we become an us
Hear the shutter preserve this summer romance
At night you draw stars, the moon, airplanes passing
Sleep next to me
Fade into me
In the morning you draw my portrait
You smooth my face with your finger
The ignition stalls
The leaves are dying
Home seems far
I take the map from your hands and draw
a U-turn an inch from where we are
This thing we started…
mourning, then cursing your absence,
when the phone brings the same bullshit
from a different halfway house,
a counselor whose credentials
are workshop at best
reassuring me you haven't lost it,
there's still hope,
as if I can pay his goddamned fee
It reminds of the time
you found those checks
out at Devils' Den,
the ones your cousin swiped
from the doctor's office where
she worked to support her
burgeoning crack hobby.
You ordered a thin crust cheese
from Domino's to feed your munchies
& got busted for forgery.
But it’s different for me now.
I’m not going to fight for you,
nor spread hate among friends,
via inflammatory texts,
electronic or otherwise.
I'm toasting a round of cheers
to all the forgotten nights
you'll spend a lifetime
trying like hell to remember.
seeking a celestial music,
a fugue of meadow beauty,
a cantata of dandelion wings.
Stand shamelessly before
unlocked doors of farmhouses
long abandoned, where icicles of neglect
hang permanently from fragile panes.
Stereotypes vanish into the towns,
the old folks at home now
seeking lottery tickets, the placebo
salve of Wal-Mart's low prices.
Roadside religion surrenders
to a plethora of prefab churches,
with billboard sermons threatening
surefire damnation to the unsaved.
I listen again and still I hear
no special music,
just the sorry whine of rusting hinges,
an insolent bluegrass.
Announcing the arrival
of doublewides in every field,
every forest where I first got high,
where I first got hard.
To slippery ledge in a space where
The waterfall parted and was bleached bright
By the sunlight, the crow was blue.
The crow hopped on the scanty pine
That grew out of a the sparse sand
In a rock crack behind a puff
Of mist, the crow was silver.
I asked the young monk with me,
What is the color of a crow.
I disturbed his concentrated gaze
At his sake in his blue-tinted clay cup,
He annoyed, puzzled, look into
The massive pile of notes he had
Copied from his schooling, he
Said, "A crow is black."
I tire of constantly fiddling
with the radio dial,
let the song I don't like anyhow
fade to static, white noise.
Besides, there's a storm
gathering on the horizon,
choking off reception,
and flashes of lightning insist
on broadcasting through
my flapping antennae anyhow.
As tempest FM
bullies the airwaves,
I hum along to humidity,
rolls of thunder, creeping
darkness, shrapnel rain.
The melody, the rhythm,
are as staccato, as scattered,
as violently unstable,
as why I need to drive alone
some days, this many miles
Erratic, my lover calls it.
She says it like a weather forecast.
I hear it like a road map.
does disagree with distance,
“it was created for the romantics.
everyone comes home in
the same clothes they left in -
Pie in the sky” he said.
So I placed a bowl of lemonade
for him and his biped heart.
I invented him
in the Midwest, balancing
on a curve of chalk
looking down at the valleys.
I attached him
to the river and its flow,
the path home.
I can’t correct the light,
its’ dusk partlets at rest and
I encourage the waltz;
listening to the sprig of the windchimes.
Yellow lenses, I am gradual.
Cedar awning, I am my face.
On the bottom step,
a bowl of lemonade is waiting.
So be home before the windchimes are strings,
grazing the eyebrows of evening.
you were arrogant before you viewed my willow tree
outside my balcony.
Now you wave at me
with green fingers
and lime smiles.
You twist my words,
Harvard collegiate style,
right where you want them to be─
lime green, willow tree, and
dark skinned branches.
how it got there
who bought its ticket
and what it will do next
is anybody’s guess
but if you don’t think
about it too much
it sure is entertaining
and you might not know
where it came from
or where it’s going
but at least it’s going
porch playing air guitar. His
ears recalling the hard rock of
AC/DC's Back in Black. I always
liked that song but would never
admit it to him.
He would think that he won, this
imaginary battle between metal
and new wave. I begged to differ
as I thought of Duran Duran posing
stylishly on a sailboat in the
They were busy drinking champagne
and eating caviar while his boys
were cavorting in sneakers with
But I couldn't turn away, forget
the power of drums and bass. The
in-your-face lyrics that came in
handy when you were pushed around.
Hands on the ground, trying to
stand up again.
As he finished strumming the last
chord, he looked at me and nodded.
I didn't have to say a word.
He already knew.
Cheap makeup smeared, gritty streaks on her face,
her fingers meddle at a scalp and red hair, and she knows—
God exists only in those tendoned movements in this place.
Cheap makeup smeared, gritty streaks; on her face
an inch she rubs at, scratches.
God exists only in those tendoned movements. In this place,
smoke through the inch-open window, broken matches
an inch. She rubs at scratches.
Her fingers meddle at a scalp. And red hair, and. She knows
smoke through the inch-open. Window broken. Matches.
She has a thumb latched on her hip, mouth turned away.
Braves the sultry summer and lonely fall.
Its clandestine mask of dark and light,
Seeps like infection through your mind,
Covers the numbing sensitivity of soured thoughts
And acquainted experiences down a list.
When the icicles from your rooftop become ornaments:
The racing thoughts in the atmosphere
Cease its five o’clock traffic and begin to trickle
Like the bored sensations in your brain, or like
Conversation with the one you loved, now lost.
Halt and repair the things you broke and hastily thrown away.
The bitter of cold air: your lids warm your agape eyes,
Starstruck from newfound creations and passing sights.
Brings a natural refrain to the unnatural things,
As your blood is thick, and you resort to the neglected running shoes,
A long-forgotten childhood friend. Take an artless walk,
And feel a genuine breeze.
For running against wind
Under fluorescent streetlights
With the one you think you know
Blinds the eye.
As cool as you can be
Strumming your guitar
Singing sweet and slow
Toss your curly hair
Fling the sweat away
Contort, twist the song
Oh the sweet melody
Expressing your soul
Breaking your heart
Out there on the stage
You're all alone inside
A hushed crowd waits
Eyes closed, swaying
The chorus is for them
They sing to touch you
an essential brain component.
I simply could not care less
for the golf tournament taking place
While I do not pray at night
for Tiger's jet to crash,
I wouldn't necessarily
lose my breakfast over it
The traffic that ensues
is unimaginably gruesome.
You're always stopped.
There is always some potbelly in uniform
directed slightly more successful potbellies
into a gravel lot
where I once pretended to be interested
You just want to get out
of your Camry, walk up to the car
in front of you and say something
about practices in futility.
That, or you just want to get out,period.