We left Ireland because were starving and getting bombed by anarchists. We came to New York and went from McPherson to Pherson, because Irishmen could still get killed in the land of prosperity. We washed our clothes and shaved off the red hairs. But God said, “Not so easy.” Recessive albinism came back. The family could not run away from that. My father could, could dump me and my mom. Sometimes lay awake at night imagining he tried to hide in some colony of the nocturnal blind who couldn’t see me, and a new complication was waiting for him. Maybe he and all the rest of his spawn went deaf. I imagine that’s waiting for me, if I ever try to escape what I am.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Friday, December 17, 2010
They armored up. Boxers, t-shirts, socks, jeans, another pair of socks that you pulled up over the ends of the jeans, polar fleeces, snow overalls, military boots, winter jackets, earmuffs and knitted caps. They didn’t want to shovel, didn’t want school to start at all, but in raiment that would make Iron Man envious, the boys were at least proud.
Leigh and Finnegan each took a shovel. They slung them over their shoulders like rifles – well, Leigh held his like a rifle. Finnegan imagined a spear. They marched onto the porch, Leigh clearing left, Finnegan right. In the distance a car’s tires snarled for traction on ice.
“The blizzard’s overtaking the whole state,” said Leigh, even though the snow had already stopped. “It’d be an emergency if, you know, it hadn’t killed the president.”
“Oh yeah. Washington is a wasteland now.” Finnegan went along. He cleared off the last and stood there, reflecting on the roads, ploughed but slushy. There was no traffic. “I’ll miss people.”
“We’re the last,” said Leigh, sidling past him to begin the path to the driveway. “Just me, you and Mom.”
“Good thing Mom can cook.”
A red SUV rumbled by. Both boys turned their backs to it, not even letting it violate their peripheral vision.
“Everyone wiped out. All the Gym teachers.”
“All the Math teachers.”
A harsh wind whipped their backs. Leigh stiffened and Finnegan wiggled.
“Quit it.” Leigh smacked his brother in the butt with his shovel. “You’re drawing attention.”
“The Lord of the North. He’s the one sending snow. Can only tell where we are if we move.”
Finnegan fidgeted to stillness. He glanced up and thought he made out a pale castle resting in the clouds. Of course. The Lord of the North.
Their path was made of big slates. Leigh cleared one square, Finnegan did the next, and so-on. Leigh brushed all his snow on the left side, facing the street. Finnegan turned around after one square to find his brother collecting all the snow he’d dumped and adding it to his leftward piles.
“What are you doing?”
Leigh pushed the drift up higher. “Building a wall so when the Lord of the North sends his orcs they’ll have a harder time getting in.”
“Orcs?” Finnegan stared across the street to the amassing hordes. Their bloody flags poked through snow-bent trees. “Are those orcs?”
“What else would they be?”
The Lord of the North sent another gust, and Finnegan turned his back to it. It blew his hood over his face, so that all that showed was a pondering frown. The orcs banged their axes on their breastplates in-between the tinkles of the house wind chime.
“I think they’re gathering,” Finnegan warned, trudging to the driveway. “We’ll need an escape route.”
“I made a rocket engine in case that happens,” Leigh said, shoveling all the same. “It’ll let the car drive over the snow.”
“You did not.”
“When did you learn to build rocket engines?”
“You didn’t go to rocket camp.”
An arrow whizzed by, nearly taking off Finnegan’s cap. It dug so deep into the snow that only the feather showed. A black feather.
Three more zipped down, digging into the drift by the path. The boys dropped their shovels and dove onto the slate.
“They have archers?”
As though in answer, the wind pulled a fresh blanket of snow from the roof. Black arrows tore through it mid-air, pelting the side of their house. A few clattered down and bounced off the boys’ legs.
“Don’t move,” Leigh warned. “The Lord of the North can see you.”
“We’re behind the wall.”
“He’s in the sky. He’s probably telling them where to aim.”
“That can’t be how it works.”
One black arrow drilled directly into the slate between Finnegan’s legs. His eyes bulged. He knew someday that part of him was going to be very important, if it wasn’t eaten by orcs. He shimmied out and grabbed their shovels.
“We can’t shovel anymore,” Leigh screeched, taking his all the same. “We’ll be killed.”
Finnegan held the blade of his shovel over his head like a shield. Arrowheads dinged off the plastic like rain. Leigh gaped, then mimicked with his. It was kind of like 300.
They kept the shovels above their heads while they peeked over the wall. Orcs were crossing the street and beginning to ford the snowfield of their lawn. They carried bannered spears that fluttered in their Lord’s evil breeze. And they weren’t alone.
Finnegan asked up at him, “Do they have a cave troll?”
“They can’t!” Leigh insisted. “It’s day out. Snow’s white and they live where it’s dark.”
The cave troll roared. The boys hugged each other, the sound shaking their bodies. The roar kept going, perpetual and inhuman, until Mom pulled out of the garage. It wasn’t a troll at all; it was the roar of a gigantic engine jutting from the hood, spewing jets of fire. She leaned out the window and called.
“You guys took forever out here. I’ve got your bags, now come on. The delay’s almost up and there is school today.”
“Told you it wasn’t a cave troll,” said Leigh. “And that I make rocket engines.”
He waddled over, no longer afraid of black arrows or Lords of the North. Finnegan stayed behind, huffing through his nose and thinking about Math quizzes.
“I wish it was a cave troll.”
Thursday, December 16, 2010
“Superman is not out of touch with this country. This country is out of touch with him. At what point in the U.S. did truth, justice and the American way become distasteful? What deluded do-nothing piss-ants could look up in the sky, see him catch a plane and crack sarcastic over it?
“What is this, Lois? “No one can relate to an invincible idealist.” Were you drunk? Who relates to George Washington for his flaws? Did people rally behind Simon Bolivar because he had a drinking problem? And before you pretend they were different, remember the most popular religion in the world is founded on a moralist so powerful he was conflated with God. We live in a sycophantic celebrity culture – the people who are above your reach are who you follow on Twitter and gossip rags. So don’t tell me that a guy who stopped the fifth plane from flying into the Sears Tower with his bare hands is uninteresting.
“I can understand that coming from cynics like The Slate, but not this paper. How dare you ask whether he makes us weak. He rescues children from burning buildings and astronauts from launch explosions.
““Does the hand from the sky hold down more than it lifts up?” Garbage. We have thousands of years of human history where we didn’t fix our own mistakes. Bridges go unmaintained until they collapse. Submarines sink. We were failing long before someone was flying at the speed of sound to save us. Are you pissed he gives your articles a happy ending every so often?
“As far as I’ve seen from the fiftieth floor of this building, this man gives up a personal life in order to be there to help us. This paper will not libel him. I don’t care if print is dying – I will let it fold and fall to the ground with my head held high before I attack the last worthwhile citizen of this country. You will scrap this editorial and write something worthy of him. Get people back on his side.”
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Season of the Witch? That’s the worst. The absolute rock bottom. In spring everything’s blossoming and we go outside. In summer it’s hot, you swim and girls wear skimpy clothing. In Fall you at least get nice foliage. Winter gets the worst bias, which I appreciate: it’s colder, the blizzards, and suicides rise on account of all the holidays. But the season of the witch is the nastiest season, the one I’d sleep through. All the storms of hail and frogs. The freak weather that makes you sweat until you alchemize. And Jesus Herbert Walker Christ, when the crone trees blossom and the green faces pop out and start screeching “I’ll get you, my pretty!” Terrify my kids and wake me up at the crack of dawn every damned day. Why we can’t cut them down, it doesn’t stand to reason. Just because they’re on an endangered species list. They cast hexes on apple pickers! They should be endangered.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Monday, December 13, 2010
-Pope Claus promises presents if Nuclear Nations disarm their missiles.
-Vatican denies "elf slave trade."
-Obama, Claus to share milk, cookies at Camp David.
-Pope Claus takes stand on priest abuse scandals: "I know which ones are naughty."
-Child to meet with Pope over coal-giving transgressions. "We hope to put hard feelings behind us."
-"Vatican relocates to North Pole. Michelangelo commissioned to recreate Sistine Chapel ceiling in igloo."
-Dalai Lama: The Pope's flying sleigh is "pretty sweet."
-ACLU worried about "pope impersonators" on public property. "Sitting on his lap is fun for your child, but offensive to others."
-Pope OK's violent videogames for "some children." "Just check the list twice."
-Lesson in Forgiveness: Pope says reconciliation can get "anyone off the list."
-"What About Mrs. Claus?" Catholic Church questioned about chastity.
-Pope to appear on Oprah. "We'll see who can hide better stuff under their chairs."
Sunday, December 12, 2010
A curious device that never could have made it in the wild. Not simply because something in the wild wouldn't be civilized enough to make it, but because its path has been one of survival of the weakest. At every stage it offered another reason for it to die out, and yet it flourished in a grand example of counter-evolution. It began as a behemoth device, the center of living rooms as much for its entertainment value as for its bulk. You could not have it in the living room without it being in the center, much as you couldn't have a sun in a solar system without everything falling into orbit around it. Over time the fat devices got bigger screens, and color settings. Then richer color settings. More knobs, which were more likely to break off. The wired remote controller became wireless, with more buttons, which were more likely to stick or go on the fritz. The box itself grew to "big screen," which were liable to die if ever dropped, due simply to mass they packed into the impact. They went flat panel, but remained heavy, and curiously came with recommendations to be hung from walls. More TVs were broken falling from failed wall mounts than any other incident in television history. They adapted symbiotic relationships to the cable box, satellite dish, VHS player, DVD player, BluRay player, home theatre system, iPod mount, Netflix streaming box, and various videogame consoles, such that soon no one had simply one wireless remote, and no universal remote could reliably keep track of its functions. The sets went "HD," to have the highest fidelity picture quality ever, and in doing so developed such sensitive screens that if someone brushed up against them they would scratch permanently. Even dust could mar the viewing panel. Soon they went beyond HD, to 3D, requiring users to wear uncomfortable glasses that often resulting in headaches or nausea from prolonged use. Some sets were promised to eventually not require the cumbersome glasses. They would have even worse effects on their owners. The reason was not obvious, but expected from the device's lineage.