Saturday, September 17, 2011

"Sologamous" in Print!

Untied Shoelaces of the Mind has published an anthology of their favorite stories. I'm flattered that they've included my "Sologamous." They also nominated it for a Pushcart Prize. My gratitude is fairly obscene.

"Sologamous" was the tale of a man seeking to legally marry himself.

The anthology is available in both print and e-book editions through Lulu. I want to thank them, and every reader whose demand has left the zine interested in publishing more of my work. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. The top of my heart is, naturally, reserved for legally marrying myself.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: Possible Origins for Him. 17.

Click the button on the left to hear this story, or click this text to download the MP3.

That isn’t a skyline. It’s Babel’s legacy. These people got so big they don’t know right from wrong anymore. Bernie Madoff and Oswald Cobblepot. Global Warming and Mr. Freeze. Rome’s burning and they don’t think it’s their fault.

He’s the worst of it. He’s not a registered bounty hunter, and if he was he’d have lost that registration years ago. Go down his file. Uncounted cases of breaking and entering. Possession of weapons-grade technology. Assault and battery. His car doesn’t even have license plates.

He savaged his suspects. Broken ribs. Shattered femurs. Dozens of mobsters leaching workman’s comp and state services. His first week he tossed someone off a building for not talking soon enough. Those tactics don’t work, and even if they did, do you really think it isn’t a crime just because he catches them before they hit the concrete?

The funniest thing about it was the hypocrisy. He’s just a man, and just one man. He can only be one place. When some masked jackass is threatening to gas a billionaire’s party uptown, he couldn’t and didn’t appear as two dozen sailors were held at gunpoint by Kahndaqi terrorists at the harbor. Shows you his interests.

I was the second man into the warehouse. Security cameras caught our charge. Flashbangs and suppressing fire, all high efficiency behavior. No hostage fatalities, and we took two terrorists alive. I collared both of them.

That night we were the second story from the top, beneath a vigilante's rescue of a bunch of rich socialites.

The next day, though? I was the top story.


Had I tackled one of them too hard? Was the taser necessary? Kicked the poor mercenary too many times? They went from “terrorists” to “victims.” Suddenly the fact that a guy with an AK-47 had been seventeen under his ski mask mattered to this city.

They wouldn’t even cover my handcuffs as they led me outside. Mayor wanted a public example. My arraignment was the same day that he busted the other sleeper cell. Beat all three of the Islamists into unconsciousness and earned an op-ed about his effectiveness. He was, according to our city’s paper of record, the hero we deserved. We shared one copy in lock-up after the guard was done with it.

Even buried under his cape and press, there was no lenience for us brutal officers. The D.A. refused to meet me. I was probably helping his career, a prime example of how he rooted out evil in the department.

You want to know where I got these scars? You have the department disown me and the D.A. toss me into general population. My first week in Black Gate, I had three visits to the infirmary. I took seven of them with me, so no hard feelings. We laughed it off eventually. I vowed not to take any of this too seriously. This city certainly wasn’t. We’ll all laugh it off - you, me, this whole city – at his funeral.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: Phallus for the Sky

This story was inspired by one of Icy Sedgwick's photos.

"Hey honey."

"Oh for God's sake, Earth."

"I know you see it. It sure sees you."

"Put that away. It's not even morning. I'm tired."

"I can see the sun behind those clouds! Come on, it's the weekend."

"Where'd the romance go? You're all architecture these days."

"I sent you that shuttle!"

"I know it's the last one, Earth. All your TV satellites are floating in me."

"Have I told you that you look spacious lately?"

"I'm going back to bed."

"I bet a full moon will be out!"

"You're the worst planet I've ever dated. Pluto never needed artistic viagra."

"And look what happened to him! No, baby. I got you figured. You go take a nap. Dream on all this. "

"The single worst planet I've ever..."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Writing Challenge and Promise

Only a choice few have heard the story from the convention I hit in August. They keep telling me to post it, but I'm not sure. It's rather ridiculous. It can be summed up in one line.

"I've only been in this perfectly nice hotel for ten minutes and I'm already naked with blood on the floor."

I did really say that. After some cajoling, I'm going to propose a bargain: if ten or more people write flash fiction based on that sentence, I'll post the true story. It probably won't be as ludicrous as your ideas. That's part of the point, isn't it?

Do we have a deal? You write 'em, post 'em, and link me here. Ten people wins a little of John's shame.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: The Box From Y.

“You have to wear all of it.


That was all the note read. Not even, “Love, Y.”

Not even, “Don’t get your soul swallowed, Y.”

But at least he hadn’t rambled at him about being a good cowboy this time. So his son was growing up a little.

Leigh laid the white note aside and cut the white string on the white box. White packing chips spewed put, raining down on the hotel room’s burgundy carpet. He swept a gnarled hand through the box, sending out a torrent of chips until he felt leather.

He pulled out two bandoliers. They swayed before his chest, the material smooth under his fingertips. He held them to his nose and inhaled the musty smell he associated with stale wafers. Treated with holy oil, so his prey wouldn’t be able to grab onto them. In the worst of times, they doubled as whips.

He set them aside and fished around in the box. Unmarked boxes of tinkling bullets. He popped one open and admired the silver casings. Each head had a little cross carved on it.

“Yes sir,” Leigh told his absent son. “I will wear every one of them until they are put to use.”

He found a heavy lump. Styrofoam chips clung to the wrappings as he lifted them. He couldn’t even brush them off; too much static. So he unfolded the bandanas to admire the twin revolvers. Pearl-handled, silver plates over sterner stuff. Freshly built to order. They vibrated under his palms. New friends calling to his muscle memory. He kissed one on the hammer the way he’d used to kiss Y on the top of the head before bed.

He lay them down on his bed and frowned at the box. It was an awful large box, even for this precious a cargo. He swirled his left hand inside the remaining chips, imagining some new-fangled body-armor vest, or some very old-fangled crucifix to ward off what Y.’d been afraid of as a little boy.

He pinched something thin. It gave, then rebounded when he released. He lifted it halfway out the box, then scoffed and dropped it. It rustled in the chips.

Using his middle finger, he poked Y.’s note, and then all those damnable bullets.

“Really, boy?”

He bided a long moment before taking it out of the box. The interior was padded. The band was stiff, but looked resilient. He’d never actually seen one of these – didn’t know they actually made them. Maybe Y. had made it himself. It was that thought that convinced to wear the white hat into town.

Monday, September 12, 2011

True Stories of John 13: Do Not Post Until 9/12

It’s one of my earliest memories in which I suspect I’m sociopathic. The girl across the hall was having a fit that morning. She threw a tantrum over something every morning.

“They blew up the subway!” I heard.

I dismissed it. I showered and readied for class. As I pulled on a t-shirt, I checked It was down. That was a first. I didn’t know it could go down.

I stopped in the Commons building to check my mail. There was one cable television in there. Both entrances to the TV room were stuffed with people. I looked over a boy’s shoulder and watched the plane hit the second tower. It was probably a replay.

I couldn’t move. Not for terror or awe, but because that’s what I felt the room wanted. In social situations I’m keenly aware of what I think is acceptable in the group. In seconds I had all the news the TV had to share. I was ready to leave. No one else was. I only knew that walking away would break an unspoken covenant with these dozens of stunned strangers. That was my strongest feeling.

“Bullshit,” I heard from my left. “Bullshit. This is why everyone hates America.”

It was the Eastern European accent of one of my few friends. He was a prickly personality. We’d met during a Shakespeare workshop. When I confessed to the workshoppers that I’d taken it because I found his works unbearably stilted and desired understanding, everyone but him stared. He laughed his ass off.

Now he was cursing his ass off in two languages. His face scoured all the silent Americans, seeking argument. Most eyes remained on the TV, but some shifted with indignation. It grew hotter without the temperature going up.

I got up and touched his shoulder. He tensed as though to clock me, but I spoke before he could ball up a hand.

“Why don’t you tell me about this?” I asked. It was all tone; I don’t really know what I meant. I only knew that the attacks on TV were raw voyeurism, and that this was an act of violence I could actually prevent. My tone of voice engaged him enough to follow me into the mail room. There, he was completely unable to articulate what offended him. Something to do with our media and our excessive self-pity. After two minutes of spitting and spinning in place, he departed for class. So did I.

I sat in the classroom, greeting my fellow students and letting them know why everything was cancelled for the day. In half an hour, I went to the lawn for the dean’s little speech. I spent hours lending shoulders for people to cry. I knew enough to get out of the way of kids whose relatives might actually be in jeopardy, and enough to check up that no more attacks had happened. Once it seemed certain that it had ended with the fourth plane, my mind actually shifted to thoughts that if I could write a book about this fast enough I might ride it to publication. I knew enough to chastise myself for the thought, even though I didn’t feel shame.

There was no fear for myself or country. I knew enough to go stolid when others came around. I knew enough not to say a lot of things. I wondered if everyone around me was acting, or if the majority possessed empathy I lacked. Was I fundamentally broken? Or were they all going through imitation shock, out of the same social instinct that had kept me glued to the TV room?

But then, my potentially broken self had defused the situation with my foreign friend. Later I heard from two people that I’d probably saved him from a fistfight. And my potentially broken self knew enough to want to appease and help others around me all that day, and for the ensuing weeks. It was just that something in my head went too immediate and pragmatic to be shaken by tragedies from afar.

Ten years later, I’m still not comfortable with this feature about myself.

No, that’s not true. I feel like the group would prefer I wasn’t comfortable with it. Just like I felt I shouldn’t post this story until 9/12.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: Roadie Story

He had some foresight; simply not enough. He always opened the door quietly, but it always slammed behind him. Lucky him, what he lacked in foresight, she compensated for in forgiveness – or sound sleeping.
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