Saturday, December 5, 2009

An Alternate Abstinence Argument

"Hey kids. You don’t know me because I’m not famous. I’m overweight, my fashion sense is dreadful and my beard is unkempt. I bring this all up because I fuck. Almost everyone I know fucks, and I don’t know many cool people. Fucking isn’t cool. It never has been and it never will be. It’s jamming an extra finger of meat inside a pink hole. Ignore premature ejaculation, rape, syphilis, chlamydia, HIV and the anxiety over whether your period is late for the next month – fucking is downright uncool because of who does it. Your mom fucks. She fucked to have you. Think about that the next time you’re swapping smut stories. Think about your mom moaning your dad’s name. Yeah. Fucking. Fun, but uncool."

Friday, December 4, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: The Balrog Looms

Joel and Elijah knew they were in trouble even before they left for the bathroom. New kids can sense trouble like that. There’s being an awkward new kid at an empty table, and then there’s being an awkward new kid at an empty table with your brother while all the boys at all the surrounding tables stared and glared at your kippah.

Elijah fiddled with his. At this school, they were probably only used to the Pope covering his head. The two boys couldn’t even eat with all those eyes on them.

“Can we go to the bathroom?” Elijah asked.

Joel looked disgusted. “Together?”

Elijah looked warily around the cafeteria. Some kids had gone back to their mac and cheese, but others still stared, including a giant of a boy at the jock table. He loomed like a golem, or like Tolkien’s Balrog, a giant monster floating behind an army of goblins.

“I don’t want to go anywhere around here alone.”

“Fine,” Joel relented. He didn’t want to be here either.

They got up together, putting their uneaten kosher meals back into carefully sectioned plastic containers Mom made them reuse.

The air was different in the hall. The lack of staring made it easier to breathe, and talk. They went straight for the bathrooms, flanking each other.

“Mizdayen baha--” Joel began, but Elijah stopped him.

“Speak English. We need to practice it better to fit in.”

Joel scoffed. “This is stupid. I told Mom that a Catholic school was--”

This time Elijah didn’t have to stop him. The cafeteria doors did. They were several yards behind and made no noise, but the boys could sense them opening. Joel looked back. Young jocks billowed out, looking around. One spied them and elbowed a comrade. Then they were headed to the bathroom too.

Elijah went straight for the bathroom. That had been the plan a minute ago, and in his panic he didn’t think to change it. Joel grabbed at his sleeve, looking back and seeing that the Catholic boys saw that they were clearly going in. Elijah went in anyway, and so Joel went after him, holding onto that sleeve.

They went for the last stall, and Joel actually followed Elijah inside.

“Shouldn’t we…?” Elijah tried to ask. When words failed, he pointed at the lock on the door. Joel inhaled quickly, then reached out.

The stall door swung open. Three boys stood in the opening, blocking the light from the window. In the moment, they seemed much bigger than Elijah. Joel didn’t know what to say.

“Hey, occupied!” Elijah cried out, trying to stand in front of his brother.

“What are you fags doing?” asked the middle of the three boys. He had dirty blonde hair, the same school uniform as his friends, and the same sickly smile.

“He your boyfriend?” taunted the one on the right. He reached in. For what, Joel had no idea. Elijah pushed the hand away from them, but that only invited more hands into the stall.

“Fuckers think you’re tough?” said the one on the right.

“I’ll show you tough,” said the middle boy, shoving Elijah so hard that he knocked into Joel and Joel fell onto the toilet. The boys laughed.

A huskier voice poked through their laughter.

"What they fuck are you doing with these newbies?"

The Balrog came around, standing directly behind the middle boy. He was a head taller than any of them and, this close, seemed equally fat and muscular to Joel.

The boy on the left laughed.

"They're Jews."

The Balrog looked down. He also wore their Catholic uniform, and to boot wore a rosary over the jacket. Then he looked back up at the bully with an expression that the rosary didn't matter right now.


Middle boy sounded indignant. "So they fucking killed Jesus!"

The Balrog stuck his tongue in his cheek. Why licking the inside of his mouth was intimidating, Joel couldn’t say. He could have peed himself, though, when that boy looked at him.

"Were you guys alive when Jesus was born?"

Joel couldn’t answer. He couldn’t say anything right now.

So Elijah did. "No.”

The Balrog nodded. “Ever met Jesus?”


"You kill anybody?” He paused, and so did everyone else in their stall party. Then he added, “Ever?"

Elijah shook his head sternly.


The Balrog looked down at the middle boy.

"Looks like they didn't kill Jesus. Why don't you go fuck off for a while?"

Joel moved his lips, but words were not in his service today. The three jock boys flowed like one stream of water, out of the stall, and then out of the bathroom.

With room in the stall, Elijah stepped away from his brother. He smoothed out his clothes, looking like he was going to address the giant.


It seemed like words weren’t much in his service, either.

"Not a problem. It's a habit I picked up from God. Act scary as shit, for good motives." The Balrog held out a hand to shake Elijah’s. “I’m Noah.”

“I’m Elijah.”

He reached to shake Noah’s hand, but Noah withdrew it. Elijah froze.

Noah looked from Elijah to Joel, then around the stall.

“You wash that hand and then I’ll shake it.” He grinned, apparently thinking this was hilarious or cool or both. He jerked his head and took a step towards the bathroom door. “Come eat at my table. I’ll introduce you to some people.”

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: Rice Allergy

Rice hated that cat. They heard him swearing at it every time he went down stairs to feed it. He kicked gravel at it when it came near him on the driveway and insulted his sister’s choice of pets. They said he really loved it, deep down, somewhere. One time his sister thought she’d caught him petting the cat with a blanket wrapped around his hand, but he denied it later.

He had wicked allergies. Rice was cursed with asthma so severe he couldn’t run or live in a room that wasn’t vacuumed daily. A dozen things could trigger harsh attacks, but the worst was cat dander. The normal person had a cat dander allergy index of 70, at which point they would have almost no irritation if a cat fell asleep on them. Rice had a cat dander allergy index of 1620. His index sounded like a year in modern history. If he lingered even for sixty seconds after giving the cat its food he became so violently sick and remained congested for a week.

He said that didn’t figure into the feud. It only meant the thing was forced to live in the basement, which was fine with him if it had to live at all. No, he simply loathed that loaf. Hated that it didn’t contribute to the household finances and was always meowing for attention. It’s food cost more than his did. If no one else was home and it cried for food, he’d whip open the door and kick at it. Then he’d go get its supper.

Cat dander was just one allergy, though. And allergies were just one of his problems. He was made from frail stuff. In his twenties the doctors found cysts in his lungs. They grew no matter what chemicals he was bombarded with.

Until that morning, he didn’t know that doctors actually told you that you had a month left to live. He’d thought TV made that up.

His sister rushed home when she got his message. She found his shoes by the door. Strangely, she found his socks a few feet later.

He wasn’t in his room, nor in the kitchen. Going downstairs, she saw his jacket cast over a chair, along with some bags from the pharmacy. A trail of Benadryl bottles lay leading to the basement door. There was another tossed on the steps leading down to the basement. Like all the others, it was empty.

The light was on. She called his name, but he didn’t answer. The cat meowed instead. It didn’t come to her like it normally did.

Rice lay on the basement floor, limbs splayed akimbo. His feet were bare and his eyes were open, but didn’t move in response to her presence. The cat lay on his chest, licking his chin.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: Ultimatum in the South

We’re leaving at 3:00 AM. That’s the earliest time when multiple flights start leaving, and it has to be multiple flights. Then they won’t know what city you’re departing for. It could be Cuba, Peru, Haiti or Costa Rica for all they know. We’re taking one with a ten-minute stopover in Brazil, except we’re not getting onto that connecting flight. We’re going to walk into the first bathroom we find in Sao Paulo-Gaurulhos International and change costumes – clothes, shoes, ditch the fake beards and pull a second, smaller set of luggage out of these big ones. We’ll stuff the old things in the trash, then spend twenty minutes in the back of a cafĂ©, until flights north start up. As soon as we hit Texas, we take a taxi into a city and we disappear. I’ve got our tickets for 3:00 AM here, and the fake passports. There will be no I.D. or money trail to follow, and once we hit the ground they won’t know where to look. The U.S. is developed, but Middle America is an abyss. It’s either this, my man, or Interpol gets you at 5:00. You know what they did to the others. What do you say?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: The Morning Scrubber

Hey Cheryl, this is Marcus. Calling at about... oh, 6:49. I know that's past Bank of America’s business hours but I just figured I'd leave a message. You set up a PayPal account for me a while ago. I just checked on it on at about, oh, 6:48. I used to have fifty-nine dollars and forty-one cents in there, which I've earned off fiction sales and all the times my grandma hits the PayPal donate button under the guise of an adoring teen fan. God love her. Well, it seems I don't have fifty-nine dollars and forty-one cents anymore on account of something called a "Monthly Maintenance Fee" that was fourteen dollars. Now I don't know what kind of maintenance program Bank of America runs, but I'm assuming there's a janitor who comes in every morning and cleans the money by hand. At the percentage of my money he costs, I'm assuming he keeps the money in pennies and cleanses them thoroughly. I'm envisioning a guy with a little toothbrush and special cleanser scrubbing any potential grime out of the nooks of all the zeroes on all my pennies. Sometimes I get change that was minted years ago but looks shiny and new – I’m assuming that’s his work. If you could, let him know I appreciate it when he comes in tomorrow. Also, if you could, please lay him off. I know it's a bad economy and jobs are scarce, but I'm willing to let you keep my money in dollar bills instead of so many high-maintenance pennies. He’ll understand since he’s apparently devoted his life to pennies and won’t want to see them circulated, even if they are circulated to purchase penny-cleanser. Also, unless he’s already used my fourteen dollars to buy new cleanser, please make him give it back. Thanks!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: Zine Works

Dale's cell vibrated on the desk, scampering over the surface like the plastic was coming to life in little bursts. He set his teeth and vengefully finished the paragraph, taking not just enough time to get back on track, but more than enough to get the wording to his standard. Finally he hit the period button with a little too much force, and picked up the phone.

"Hello?" he said, sounding unnecessarily annoyed.

"Dale!" The voice on the phone screeched. "Dale! I'm trapped in a magazine!"


"In a magazine! No idea how!"

"It's okay, Fred. Calm down." He rubbed the bridge of his nose. This should not have been logically acceptable to him, but they both did a lot of drugs. "Look around yourself. What magazine are you in?"

"There are a lot of words, and a huge picture."

"What's the picture of?"

"I think it's a woman. Or an armoire. It's abstract."

"That could be any magazine. What about the words? What are they writing about?"

"Mostly ads. I think part of it's a story. Really short."

"Fiction is dying in print."

"I'm trapped in a magazine! Help!"

"Is there anything else in there?"

"Uh. A cartoon?"

"A cartoon?"

"Black and white. It's a lion on a cell phone."

"Is the caption ironic?"

"No duh it is!"

"Is it ironic but not funny at all?"

"How'd you know?"

"I just resubscribed to The New Yorker. I think you're on my coffee table. I'll get you in a minute."

Dale switched his cell off and looked at the monitor. He read the paragraph to himself a couple of times. Fred could wait – he knew better than to read Dale’s stuff without asking.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: Petri Dish Sister

I'm sorry, she's never heard of your home country. My sister has all the culture of a Petri dish. That is to say, she's entirely made up of culture, but doesn't know what it is and has no idea there are others outside her circle of plastic. She's also like a Petri dish in that her culture's rather disgusting and probably bad for you: top seventeen things you didn’t know your lover wanted; reality television about real wives and desert islands. But she's got a heart of gold. You won't find one of those in a Petri dish. She means well. When she says what you just ordered is gross, she’s not insulting five hundred years of your country’s culinary culture. She’s just worried for your health.
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