Saturday, September 24, 2011

Friday, September 23, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: The Last Cat on Earth


Toby slipped on the thick leather jacket. He flipped up the collar to shield his neck and cheeks. Next came a second pair of jeans, buckling them over the tails of the jacket. Gloves and construction boots were necessary. He looked out the window as he donned the ski mask. He watched the undead shuffling on the street corners before flipping goggles to protect his eyes.

He couldn’t risk getting a speck on him. He was the last man who could do the job.

He followed the undead through the windows of his house. Two windows on the west wall, then the one next to the porch. Four of his former neighbors shambled along the driveways. Their eyes were blind, noses turned up to sniff. Maybe they could smell him. Or maybe they smelled Mr. Tibbs.

Scuffling rose behind him. Toby whirled and saw the basement door shake. He rushed over to it, but the button was depressed. It was locked. He heard his sister – his former sister – groaning down there.

He frowned at her through the door. She couldn’t do this job anymore.

“I’ll take care of it,” he told her. “Even though you know I never wanted it here. Do you know how dangerous it is?”

The deck door slid open quietly. There was a little whoosh of air, and then the saddest sound left on earth. A keening, churning whine. As much as he hated these things, it made even him feel a little sorry.

It padded around the plastic deck furniture. It arched its spine, so that when it walked between their legs it would rub its sides. Mr. Tibbs was a self-petter, but that wasn’t enough affection. Even self-rubbing, it looked so damned pathetic.

Toby drew a plastic sheet from the living room and closed the door. No sense in letting dander get inside. This was going to be an allergic nightmare as it was.

“I don’t like you any more than you like me,” he said down to it. It didn’t seem to dislike him, but cats lied with their faces. “This just doesn’t feel right. And you're not eating the food I throw out here. What's wrong?”

When Toby didn’t immediately pet the little bastard, it keened again. It sounded almost human. Kickably human. The kind of humanoid sorrow that’d haunted him up in his safely boarded study the last three days. His wonderful, hypoallergenic study with the view of the wonderfully silent, dander-free undead.

The plastic chair creaked as he squatted into it. He laid the plastic sheet over his chest and lap, hands flattening it into place over his jacket. When it was ready, he patted his thigh. Mr Tibbs quirked its wretched head, then began to climb into the last lap on earth. Even now, there was a little affection left in the world. But only a little. He’d kill the bastard if it got any hair on him.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: Electronic Motions

It was the biggest thing since building critters out of meat. Electronic motion: electrifying the meat so that the critters would not just move, but feel. This existential electricity flowed down a spine, through a head, into and out of fingertips. A critter twitched. A critter writhed. A critter wrote hexameter. The Designer liked it all until one critter’s electronic motion caused it to question whether it had a Designer, or whether that Designer was particularly intelligent. That’s about when the Designer stopped talking to them and spent all the time electrocuting them. It was sort of vengeance, and a sort of function. Electric excitement. Electric enticement. Electric despair. He did it so much that electronic motions required short hand. He shortened it to “e-motions.” Eventually he dropped the hyphen.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: Where I’m Buried

I’m buried all over this house. The golf clubs and my first toolbox, nestled together in the garage. Finger paintings on the walls, underneath just two coats of baby blue. Blankets I spent seventeen years sleeping under, now folded and gathering dust mites in the attic. The Wilson hoody in the hall closet, which hadn’t fit me for three years. You thought I’d trim down some day.

My old room is a mausoleum. Not to me, but you look at the bed like a burial vault. I’ve never seen someone fix the pillows in a burial vault every day like that. Somehow, it suits you. You’re concerned some part of me will be uncomfortable.

Don’t worry, Mom. I wasn’t scattered into the winds over Moosehead Lake. You knew those weren’t me, just like the coffin sitting in Arlington is empty. Those were tokens.

It was an IED. It looked like the kind of paper bag you hide a liquor bottle in, though you don’t see many liquor bottles in that part of Afghanistan. They didn’t tell you that I touched it because the bomb squad was three hours late. I can understand why they wouldn’t.

I’m not in Afghanistan. I was doing things there. Now I’m not. Bits of me are not embedded in the street or plastered against the buildings. I am not camouflaged among bricks and rust, except for the bricks on the back wall of our house. I scraped myself there at four years old, trying to fix the satellite dish. You were right. It was a bad idea. Now there is a bit of me there.

They’ll tell you to grieve. They’ll tell you to let go. I don’t want you to – I can’t imagine why I’d want you to. What balloon wants to drift into the sky? Maybe I’m only here because you won’t let me not be. I don’t think that’s true. But I think it’ll be okay if you have to let me go, because bits of me will always be around you.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: Men Only Want One Thing


I’ve heard it my whole life: ‘Men only want one thing from women.’

For the longest time I’ve struggled over my one thing would be. One morning I stumped on a street corner and accosted forty-seven women in an informal poll as to what the one thing men should want is. It came out a tie between “sex” and “leaving me alone.”

Sex can’t be it: I can’t imagine wanting sexual intercourse with even a quarter of the women I’ve met.

And wanting all women to simply go away? That's isolationist. I wouldn’t put stock in either.

For a while I thought it was stock. Not a bad idea, to want every woman you met to fork over shares of a Fortune 500 company.

I followed that premise and settled that the one I want from women is a million dollars. How happy I’d be, how positively feminist I’d become, if all females handed over a million dollars upon proposition. Unreasonable to expect them all to keep that kind of cash on them, but why lower my standards? It’d compromise the one thing I get to want from them.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: The Pirates Sailed Inland Again

This was originally posted in October 2008. I'm re-posting it for Chuck Allen's pirate blog carnival.

Having heard some hurtful criticisms about their profession on CNN, the pirates sailed inland for more practical ventures. They scouted the homes of the wealthy, and when the occupants went to work, the pirates pillaged. But they just weren’t satisfied with stealing a home theatre or a sweet sound system. It was too small-scale.

First they tried to yank the whole house out of the ground, but the foundation was too strong and the hull was too small.

They tried sawing the floors apart to make them more maneuverable, but when the lumberjacks realized what the pirates were doing with their saws they took them back and broke the first mate’s arm.

Some of the deckhands had the idea to steal shacks and any other structures not attached to the actual houses. The crew had twenty Hummers (and twenty garages) when the captain returned from Starbuck’s. He was most displeased with the operation, but his first question wasn’t why they’d put a sliding electric door on his quarterdeck. His first question was, “How’d you get the ship on land?”

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: The Saddest Sand Castle

She ran all the way down to the end of the towels. Her father pointed her further, so she went further, but as soon as the old man relented, she paused and scouted her realm.

Beige sand, fine as powder, swallowed her toes. She watched the waves come in, refreshing the sand at the end to dark brown. Anything she built there would be destroyed.

She took two handfuls of the wet stuff and carried it to her construction site. She dribbled it in a spiral that wound up looking too much like dog poo. She nearly kicked it over when she spied the waves again. Whatever she built, they’ve consume it. Unless she was careful.

She dragged her heel to make a square foundation. This was her true domain. She hunkered on all fours at the outskirts of that domain, heaving sand into dunes that were half her own height. When it exhausted her, she slumped her chest against the protective sand-walls and regarded the sea. Still it ebbed and flowed. Closer now, too. They might eat through one defense.

So she sprawled over her barrier dunes and scraped into the beach. She dug a moat around her barriers; a sand canyon after a sand mountain range. To her dismay, she struck water. If she went deep enough, the stuff had already gotten under her foundation.

Moats were imperfect. So she took all her new-dug sand and formed a second wall. She trolled the beach for shells and rocks, and jammed handfuls of them into every wet lump of building material. It had to be a stern wall. They all had to be.

She was on the fourth wall when her father hollered. Time to go to dinner and home. She jerked her head up. But she hadn’t had time to build the castle this was supposed to defend. Her father, a tyrant of a brick-and-mortar castle, refused to listen. She cried and was dragged past her foundation, past her lonely dog poo-shaped sand structure.

As they pulled from the parking lot, she could see the insipid tide. It was already eating her fourth wall. All that time and she’d never built the amazing kingdom. The beach provided only weak materials. Next time, she’d have to bring her own. A sand castle made of cement blocks. That’d show the tide.
Counter est. March 2, 2008