Saturday, November 28, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: Analysis of the Hagakure

I find no greater meditation on what kills a man than in the Hagakure, an Asian instruction manual to the samurai. It is for the disciplined and the sociopathic alone, yet provides insight into everyone’s mortality in our social world. Consider:

“Meditation on inevitable death should be performed daily. Every day when one’s body and mind are at peace, one should meditate upon being ripped apart by arrows, rifles, spears and swords,”

While medicine has improved since the Hagakure was first written, it is important to note that none of these are certain killers. People survive getting pegged in archery range accidents every day. E.R.’s routinely save gunshot victims. And if a gun isn’t a certain killer, then neither is the sword it rendered obsolete.

The Hagakure continues:

“being carried away by surging waves,”

Undertoes are more dangerous than swords, but people still survive being dragged out to sea.

“being thrown into the midst of a great fire,”

In 2000, a man in Pennsylvania charged into a burning house after hearing the cries of children. He rescued them from the second floor, but half his body was covered in second degrees burns from sheltering them from the flames. He died in 2007 of drug overdose. Fire, even a great one, is not a certain killer.

“being struck by lightning,”

The heavenly killer, yet there are people who survive lightning strikes. The main danger is the current travelling left and reaching your heart. In 2009 a young British couple were struck by lightning while holding hands. Both survived.

“being shaken to death by a great earthquake,”

San Francisco alone has shown us earthquakes are not necessarily fatal.

“falling from thousand-foot cliffs,”

In fact, people have survived falling out of airplanes. Any height is dangerous, but not necessarily lethal. Like lightning, it has to do with how the impact travels through the body.

“dying of disease”

At one time the flu or a fever seemed certain death. Today we are fighting back HIV and cancer.

“or committing seppuku at the death of one’s master.”

Which brings us to that last. Suicide means to kill oneself. To do anything other than kill yourself is not suicide; just a suicide attempt. So seppuku is the only thing on this list that will certainly kill a man. He may survive bullets, flashfoods and lightning, but he cannot survive himself.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: His Name is Victor

Listen to the audio version or download the MP3 of "His Name is Victor" here.

No one suspected anything of Victor. That was part of the witch’s curse: he couldn’t even say what he was. His powers were gone and he was forced to take a lowly position. He came every day precisely at the minute of his shift, took off his cloak and put on the blue smock and nametag. How it mocked him with its exclamation points.


To this store he was just another checkout counter jerk. Just another man sweeping up refuse and waiting for “break time.”

“Break time.” Once break time had meant breaking the laws of nature! It had meant subverting minds and conjuring demons from beyond. It had meant breaking time itself, in his bare and unholy hands.

Now "break time" meant eating store-brand granola and watching funny Youtube videos on the manager’s computer. Some were admittedly clever, even to his venerable wit. When his sorcery returned and he unleashed the hounds of inferno upon the earth, he would make certain those content providers were spared.

He would not bend. He wore the cloak and ankh, no matter how unfashionable his neighbors thought it was. That was the embarrassment. But that witch would pay, for the Pharmacy section had an amazing array of chemicals. Belladonna in stomach medicine, wolfsbane in pain relievers – he’d never admit it, but there was a thrill to stirring Tylenol into his cauldron's brew. It was so wrong. And soon that woman who had wronged him would be brought to justice, because of his unending vengeance, and because of every day low prices.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: New Goddess in Town

More than forty people showed up for the house warming party. So much coffee was consumed that Ted had to run back over to his place to pick some more. When Cybil, their new neighbor, started collecting cups, he got up to take an armload as well. He was never comfortable in big roundtable discussions and they were gabbing about the Emmies anyway.

Cybil carried the tray of cups with a veritable bounce in her step. She had more energy than any middle-aged lady Ted had ever met.

“I’m so excited to start on Monday,” she chirped as they entered the kitchen. “I worked in claims ages ago. It’s second nature to me.”

“Where did you do that?”

“Oh, Greece. Didn’t your wife tell you? I spent almost my whole life over there.” She set down the tray and beamed. It took up her whole face, and despite her age, only the faintest crows feet appeared around her eyes, like she’d never made an expression before today. “Please thank her so much for helping throw this party. I wanted to start off right in this town.”

He waved her off. “It’s no bother, really.”

She shook her head until he looked her in the eye. “Really, it is. I’ve moved so many times and people always get the wrong impression about me. I’m a goddess, you see, and though I’ve done nothing to earn it, my name has such a bad reputation that I had to have it changed. ‘Cybil’ is a family joke.”

Ted leaned against the sink, eyeing her. She seemed nice and all, but a goddess? Maybe she was a New Ager.

“A goddess? Really?”

She shrugged with a little smile, then turned into an owl. She flew up to the counter and pecked at some peach cobbler.

Ted wasn’t sure, but that did seem like a thing in the realm of gods to do.

“Okay then,” he said, putting his plate down. “That shouldn’t be a problem. There’s the occasional bigot, but this is a city of many religions. I live next to a Baptist church, and for goodness sake, I was raised Scientologist.”

She turned back into a woman, in the same blouse and skirt. The plate of peach cobbler was now in one hand instead of on the counter.

“You’re a good man, Ted Jefferson. I’m a great judge of people, so that should mean a lot to you.”

Ted nodded plaintively and arranged the cups next to the sink.

“Thanks. But you didn’t mention your name. What’s a name so bad that a goddess would abandon it? Not that I have anything against Cybil.”

“You wouldn’t,” she said around half a mouthful of cobbler. She blushed, then swallowed it and finished. “You have an Aunt Cybil.”

“You are good,” he said. He was uncertain if he did it out of intimidation or kindness, but he began rinsing coffee cups.

She beamed again, those eerily faint crows feet reappearing. “It’s a thing. But even if I didn’t know, I’d bet you didn’t have an Aunt Nemesis.”

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: Lesser White Shark

Known in some circles as the “okay white shark” or the “pretty good and slightly beige shark,” the Lesser White Shark is a bitter creature. Evolution gave the Great White a cast-iron digestive system and jaws so powerful that people name novels after them. In contrast, the Lesser White Shark is the only beast in the sea that requires a retainer for its painful overbite. Because evolution is kind of jerk, it did not give these sharks the intelligence to build retainers. Only incredibly compassionate human environmentalists dare make retainers for the sharks, and these environmentalists are dwindling in number since the Lesser White Sharks immediately use their corrected chewing to eat their human allies. These environmentalists are not extinct solely because the Lesser White Shark is simply that piss-poor a predator. After eating their fill of environmentalists, this breed tends to congregate near the surface, some few hundred yards away from a Great White, and complain. It is also the only shark that has evolved the desire to complain, though again, since evolution is kind of a jerk, it has not evolved a method of expressing this. The sharks will circle each other, presumably snarking bout the Great White’s ego and love life, until one of them gets hungry or their moms call.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: Wereman

“Wereman, sir. I am a wereman. For most of my days and nights I am a North American grey wolf with a nice coat and a decently attractive mate, though I suspect the alpha male is going to fight me for her soon.

“It is only during the full moon that I shed fur and the four-legged lifestyle, and am stricken with this form. Balancing on two legs is only the start of the problem. Suddenly being snaggletoothed matters to me. I’ve got to find not only clothes, but fashionable ones. I’m self-conscious about how I speak, about what strangers think of me and who will win the upcoming elections. It’s no wonder that I have a drinking problem every full moon. I can’t wait to morph back and lose this blasted reasoning lobe you humans carry around and spend so much time on.

“You’ve got all the instincts but none of the fun. The females are just as bad. Human females do not appreciate you sniffing their tails, at least not until you've done foreplay, and I can't wrap my mind around that ritual in just one night a month.

“Being a werewolf sounds dreadful. To only escape this purgatory of self-criticism and human society for the four-legged life during full moons would drive a man mad – not from the people he mauled, but from desperately wanting not to change back with dawn.”

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: Ultrasound Reasoning

I don’t know what’s wrong with my kidneys. Woke up in the middle of the night once in November with excruciating pain that left me vomiting and spasming on the bathroom floor. The next day I was fine.

Then on Christmas night it came back, out of nowhere, like Santa had left it for a present. Vomited so badly it somehow got in the tub and on the wall five feet behind me. The next day? My insides were stable again.

It came back again for two nights in January, then three in February, if you count the leap year day. In March, as though to celebrate my birthday, it hit ten consecutive nights. It had no relationship to what I ate and it was nothing like kidney stones or renal diseases the doctor knew about. He sent me down to imaging for a picture of my insides. Not an x-ray, but an ultrasound.

I should have known.

Sure, I’m a man, but I’ve always hated children. They’re insidious nine-month infections. My belly didn’t swelled up like a pregnancy, but there’s only one thing you use an ultrasound for. All the inflammation, all the pressure on my belly – the little bastard must be kicking. Maybe Brazilian barbecue was a bad idea. I eat really fast sometimes. Maybe I ate a whole life form and it’s growing in there. Maybe it’s got a cottage in the shade of my liver. Either that, or alien abductions. They’re always trying to do weird things to humans. All I know is that when the ultrasound comes back, if this is a kid, I’m hitting the gym. I’ll be ready when the bastard pops out. He’ll be in for the fight of his life on his birthday.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: Spider Ruins Man

He was bitten by a radioactive spider. Unfortunately, due to the radiation, the spider grew to gigantic proportions. The bite took off his entire upper torso. His poor aunt and uncle had to bury just his legs and belt buckle, once they had a mortician and exterminator go over his remains. You know, to make him classy and check for radioactive egg sacs. Just terrible. No idea why the story is so misrepresented in the press.
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