Sunday, December 13, 2009

A cart of lanterns careening down an aimless track.

I could see them coming; or rather, I could hear them. And because I could hear them, I was able to visualize that sound in image form: a medium-sized rusty cart careening down a rickety aimless track. It needed to get fixed approximately years ago. I told Ralph, but he didn't listen. In fact, he looked down at his hands much like I am doing right this moment, probably created a mental picture in his mind of what was right in front of him based on the stumbling nervous voice that he was blankly nodding his head to. Except this time the thing I am seeing happening using the movie camera in my brain (craning my head to the appropriate angle to get a good view is not in the cards for me right now) is behind me, not in front, like it was for him.

Really, he had the choice to look, and I don't so much.

Also, he probably correctly imagined the sight he chose not to behold, as I apparently did not. No, the last thing I would have conjured was that the lanterns would be lit. Now, it might have been the impact from the cart into my already-aching body playing tricks on my corneas, but I swear the last thing I remember seeing (or was it feeling?) was a pile of lights, looking like buzzing fireflies, covering every inch of me.

It could have been real; they could have been lit before they were sent down the track. Someone (Gerry? I bet it was Gerry) could have taken their sweet time lighting every single one of those things as they carefully placed them in the trapezoidal metal cart, using the daintiest fingers a miner can replicate to ensure none of them extinguish on the way down. A nice gentle push and--

It's amazing I was able to get all those thoughts in and out of my noggin before the inextinguishable lanterns made their way into my legs and torso, and well, extinguished me.

Monday, February 16, 2009


She took one last deep breath, holding it for a moment before closing her eyes and exhaling slowly. She concentrated on the cold wind against her face, attempting to become one with her surroundings. She opened her eyes and took in the snow covered cars parked across the street, abandoned for the moment, peaceful. She almost smiled in spite of herself—this had always been her favorite time of year. She listened to her neighbors complain about the frosty Wisconsin winters, and she would always nod in agreement (it's the complaining and the sense of having lived through something together that bonded citizens, after all) but she would always secretly relish the first snow fall of the year, the way the snow would glisten under the street lights on silent early evenings, the way the icicles hung from cars all the way to the street below. Something about having to pile on layers of clothing before heading to the grocery store or school felt exciting, like one was preparing for a great adventure. Even brushing off the car and scraping the ice could be comforting, a sort of ritual, a reminder that nothing good comes easy, that we were all in this together, as neighbors scraped off their own windows, cursing the temperature—

"Mommy!" A voice cut through her thoughts and she was immediately transported back to the icy, gray morning. She sighed.

"Mommy! What are you looking at?"

"Nothing sweet pea. Are you buckled?"

Sunday, January 04, 2009

It's floating but it's not adrift.

How did a rainbow fall into the ocean? He was concerned but didn't let it show. Hands tucked in pockets, his shoulders twisted up toward his earlobes in a half-hearted attempt to break the brisk wind from his bare neck. His eyes remained transfixed, though. Gazing off not toward a horizon or a wandering wave somewhere far offshore, but at a piece of motley drapery hovering atop the grey-blue waters. If it weren't for the slight sun peeking in through the musty clouds, the reds, greens, purples, etc. wouldn't have been visible at all.

Of course he knew it wasn't actually a rainbow. It was just too beautiful to not make the comment, even though it lay there a piece of discarded trash from a giant's kite or a gay pride parasail...or something. Really this just proves the point. It couldn't be defined and thus he simply called it a fallen rainbow. Simple as that. Of course it's not like this satiated his curiosity. He continued to look off into the distance like he was about to win something if he waited long enough. Though the expression on his face indicated that regardless of whether he won or lost, he would not have shown any kind of reaction - positive or negative.

This pointless argument tumbled about in his head as she saw his white sinewy breath swirl out of his mouth, his entire body still minus the twitching corner of his lip. She wanted to want to say something, but she preferred silence, the sound of boats at the harbor a half-mile down the bay. But she couldn't help but think that if she had a desire to break the non-tension (they were both perfectly fine the way they were, but were afraid the other felt awkward, thus ironically making them both feel awkward), then maybe they would end up leaving the beach.

To leave was all she wanted. It was a mess, truly it was. Not wanting to say something but wanting to want to speak up, wishing she could just pivot her foot in the sand to the left, begin walking toward the car, and he would follow. But she knew he wouldn't. He would stay there, staring at a piece of multi-colored fabric laying in the water, getting dirtier and dirtier by the minute. When she thought that, she meant to imply that the fabric would get dirtier, but she realized that maybe she also possibly subconsciously meant that he would get dirtier and dirtier, standing there on the filthy beach unshowered with his hands shoved into his surely grime-ridden pockets.

He felt the necklace with his knuckles. He couldn't bare to and yet he couldn't take them away. If he exposed his hands to the air, not only would he have another body part (two body parts, technically, well really a lot more than two body parts, technically) that he would have to worry about freezing to the point of numbness, but he would also have to pretend that he really did only put his hands in his pockets to warm them up. But he didn't of course. He put them in there to sit for a bit, get all cozy and such, and then pull out the jade necklace for her. As soon as he gripped it, though, a few seconds before this very story began, he saw that damn rainbow floating in the ocean. If he hadn't seen the rainbow (once again, we're only calling it this because there's nothing else really for it to be called, and the least we can do in this situation is be consistent albeit frustratingly abstract, maybe even overly symbolic, though even this author (much less our protagonist) isn't sure of the significance of a fallen rainbow), he would have just brought the jade necklace out right away (after getting those hands toasty of course) for her to marvel at in a fit of brave nostalgia and romance.

He thinks so anyway. Maybe that's what he would have done.

She looked at the car for the nineteenth time within a span of four minutes. She didn't count, but he did. His peripheral vision is amazing. Even while dramatically witnessing a fallen rainbow treading water in practically the opposite direction. He also heard her zipper zip up and down furiously (but not too furiously, only enough to subtly imply she wanted to get in the fucking car and drive dammit). She was getting antsy, to put it in a way she would almost assuredly say if she had built up that non-desire enough to actually utter words. But she wouldn't. She would stand there, finding new ways to make noises with her clothing or new things to look at toward the horizon that weren't that infuriating orange, yellow, blue, etc. piece of massive whatever in the bay.

This would go on for upwards of two more minutes.

This would end the only way it could have.

With the necklace enclosed in his fist so tight that not even an x-ray could determine its existence, he gently withdrew his right hand from his jeans and, right before a space between her lips formed, he said:

"Your mother would have wanted you to have this."

So he placed the jade necklace in her palm and she never had to respond. His daughter simply helped him back in the car and drove.

Monday, July 07, 2008

an examination of your toxic vocabulary.

"modern mystery"
someone still loves you boris yeltsin

neoteric: why do you utter such nonsense? no one uses language from "the late latin" or "the late greek." maybe they do, i'm no etymology expert, but in addition to your ostentatious use of words i can only google to understand, you also give me the origin language of the word when upon my face arrives that risen eyebrow, that crinkled forehead, that certain je-ne-sais-quoi in my yellow mouth agape, slightly tilted to the left. you've said more than once that this expression i give you so gracefully infuriates you about as much as your "advanced vocabulary" (we're not in high school anymore! you don't do or have "advanced" anything!) exhausts and disgusts me. you comparing my level of offendedness to yours almost makes me rip my hair out my scalp as much as your carefully chosen lexicon does. almost. i began with this word because honestly, i don't even remember how you used it - it was one of the early ones, back when i didn't listen to you very closely. sorry! i had other things to do! i began with this word so that i could go on my introductory rant, such as you often do before you get to any discernible point, without breaking the pattern. also, neoteric? yuck. how could i not mention such a gross fake-sounding word? i know another "-teric" word that i just learned recently: esoteric. ha! how fitting! no, that is not an exclamation point that denotes playfulness. it denotes anger. furious hell-fueled anger. let's go on, shall we?

jacitation: this one i remember so clearly i almost feel my ears burning again from when it dribbled off your sly fingertips. jibberish was all i got from you, so i took the bait - i hated this juvenile trick you always pulled. "what's wrong?" i asked half-genuinely concerned (okay okay my mind was elsewhere this time too, what are you going to do about it now?). "i've been having these odd jacitations throughout the night." i rolled my eyes as hard as i could because i knew you wouldn't notice, looked at the tiny digital clock in the corner, and realized it was only 10 o'clock. i snickered as you went moaning on about back spasms this and can't get comfortable that. i didn't respond immediately, so you followed up your pretentious faux-diagonsis with a, "got any suggestions?" and i was mentally rolling on the floor laughing my brains out. i just imagined you, whiny and self-absorbed as always, "it's 10pm and i haven't the faintest idea if i will ever experience the appropriate number of REM cycles before my 5am wheat grass shot!" i almost said it, mockingly and 100% uncaring, but i decided to delete it. instead, without saying anything, i simply pointed you to a place where you could get some sleeping pills, even though i knew you'd rather just complain and then fall asleep with the bright glare in your stoic sleeping face. then you'll be idle, then you'll be gone. ok, so no conflict with this example, but so much of my hatred for you certainly stemmed from times one of us secretly laughed at the other.

gourmand: so none of these words are particularly long, which i'm sure just makes me look like the asshole, but c'mon. a word doesn't have to have seventeen syllables for it to make you sound like you slick your hair back and wear blue shirts with white collars. "that sounds like half of my co-workers," you obliviously commented when i brought this iconic asshole image up once before. again, here we go with the laughter that incites my completely antagonistic feelings toward you. i switched topics before i could adequately ignore for a sufficient amount of time (my usual defense mechanism). "i'm making homemade mac & cheese tonight. with goat cheese. bet you're jealous." really, the only reason i brought this up was because i couldn't wait to scarf my face full of the delicious baked dish so i would be able to more capably pretend you don't exist. "ooh sounds tasty. you are quite the gourmand, aren't you?" quite the what? i mean, i can figure it out - gourmet, change it into a person by replacing a suffix, bada-bing bada-boom, you get a gluttonous snob. but no one would ever call themselves a gourmand. no no no. why would anyone say, "ah yes, my homemade mac & cheese, i will be quite the gourmand this evening!"? they wouldn't. only snobs with ascots and make believe british accents call their girlfriends a "gourmand." a blind anger hit me harder than a thousand unabridged dictionaries - it rendered me speechless. as usual. luckily, you didn't care; you just kept going on about past evidences of my gourmandness. god that sounds so close to "ginormous." only you would let slip into a dialogue of ours a word that identifies me as food crazy and sounds like you're calling me fat at the same time. the buzzer on the oven went off. it felt like i couldn't get that mac & cheese on my plate fast enough. i wanted to throw some at you. "one for me," i'd plop some on my plate, table for one. "one for you," i'd throw it at whatever i could find that would work as a representation of you. i couldn't throw it at the computer screen after all. flushing 1200 of my own dollars down the toilet just so i could see penne slide across your screen name? sounds slightly cathartic, but no thanks. and this - these words, these anecdotes, carl of hartford, connecticut, is why i am officially done with online dating.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Foggy Glass

Psalm 33:6
By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
and by the breath of his mouth all their host.

He leaned forward and put his nose against the glass. The fish on the other side hardly seemed to notice. As he breathed out, the glass fogged up until it was too cloudy to see through. He leaned back and put his finger on the foggy glass. It left a small, clear spot.

His mother touched his shoulder. “Time to go, honey,” she said. He turned and followed her away from the aquarium. They walked through the tunnel together to the next part of the zoo.

“Why does it do that, Mommy?” he asked.
“Why does what do what?”
“The breath makes the glass foggy.”
“Because your breath is warm and the glass is cold. That’s what happens when the temperatures are different.”

He put his hand in front of his mouth and breathed out against it. The breath felt warm and gentle on his skin. It almost felt like nothing, but it was the heat that made the difference. He put hit hand back down, and it still felt warm.

“Is that why I can see my breath when it’s cold out too?” he asked.

They walked through a gate into an open area full of birds. He could hear tons of different calls and rustling sounds of wings or leaves, but he could only see the birds when they flew above him. It just looked like a lot of trees.

“Why do they have birds if you can’t even see ‘em?”
She didn’t answer. She probably didn’t hear him.

He remembered when his dad told him one night that there were millions of stars that they couldn’t see. It was a cold night, and he could see his breath. They stared up at the stars that they could see, and he asked why there were so many if they couldn’t see them all. His dad said he didn’t know.

He looked up. His mouth was open, and he breathed in and out slowly and quietly.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

you there, with the crazy skeleton eyes.

"so messed up"
tall firs
too old to die young
[ecstatic peace]

a friend once approached me with a wild look in his eyes, grocery bag nearly falling out of hand. i could have sworn that coffee yogurt peeking out of the flimsy plastic was going to go splat onto the sidewalk. and when it did, i was going to chuckle. emphatically. but still classified as a chuckle. not enough to make him feel bad. what with the frenzied pupils, that probably wouldn't be the brightest move - involuntary or not. hypothetical consequential actions aside, just like i am acting right now as i retell this story, i wasn't too concerned with my friend's almost vertiginous glare at the time. i simply attributed it to the late night sky and the previously mentioned grocery bag full of goodies: it takes a special kind of person to shop for coffee-flavored yogurt at 2 a.m. and morgan was exactly that kind of guy. also, it might have had something to do with the fact that i was teenager at the time.

skateboard and paper-sacked beer in tow, i was enjoying the clean suburban air with casey when i happened upon bumbling 22-year-old morgan. i was a freshman at hopkins when i met morgan's former senior year self and we slowly became what we regrettably called ourselves back in that arrant year of 1997: "best buds." now i was skating through the pitch blackness following my own senior year, morgan just home now after his four years at luther. gliding through street after vacant street, i wondered how long it would take me to skate to the campus i was attending that fall, and if i could just stay there until september. one might think the impracticality of that notion was what kept me from following through, but really it was because i knew when i left for college, i'd have to give up my massive stereo that i had to my older brother petey. "trust me, it'll be too big for the dorm," my mother scowled at me from the bottom of the stairs. petey sucked. still kinda does. he lived with our parents when he was going on 30 years old back then, only working part time at some kind of auto shop . he still kinda lives with them at 36 now...i think. who knows; i haven't talked to any of them in over a year.

casey had no mode of transportation that evening, so i inadvertently shredded too much pavement so that i ended up about twenty feet ahead of her at all times. except for the times when she'd run and catch up, almost instantaneously smacking me in the head with her oversized flannel sleeve to get me to slow down. come to think of it now, every time she did that, she just snagged the beer out of my grip and took a swig. whatever her motive was, it was annoying and all the same, mostly my fault. by the time morgan showed up, however, she had stopped caring enough to even do that. as i watched that yogurt cup intently and waited for morgan to respond to my oh so eloquent "sup morgan?," casey sat down at the curb, clearly not wanting to be a part of my encounter with an old friend. i was fine with that, because if she had walked up to our non-conversation and feigned interest, she wouldn't have been eventually bored enough to divulge her toothpick case from her shirt pocket. of course i didn't know she was doing this until i realized morgan wasn't staring at me with his crazy skeleton eyes, he was staring at casey's toothpicks. late night yogurt shopping + getting excited over a teenage girl's possession of numerous toothpicks in an easy-to-carry plastic case = crazy skeleton eyes, getting more crazy and skeletal at an exponential rate.

"you like yogurt fondue?"

i could feel my eyes widen in response to his question, but i don't think they quite resembled any of the adjectives i've used above regarding ocular cavities. yet.

"i saw you eyeing the coffee one. there's bananas, strawberries, and more flavors underneath. your girlfriend has toothpicks and a curb to sit on. let's get to work."

"she's not my girlfriend."

"ok, bud. ok."

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Glow in the Dark


This person glows in the dark. He walks down the street at midnight and runs into another person. This person does not glow in the dark.

"Hey!" says the one who doesn't glow. "Didn't you see me?"
"You should have seen me. I glow in the dark."
"Right. You do glow in the dark."
"Then why did I run into you?"
"I was looking down. I didn't see you."

"Why don't I glow in the dark?"
"I don't know," answered the illumined one. "Why don't you glow in the dark?"
"It's not a joke. It's a question."
"Oh. So you don't know."
"Do you know why I glow in the dark?"
"Were you born that way?"
"I don't think so."
"Did you get covered in radioactive waste?"
"Then I don't know."
"Oh. Do you want me to tell you?"
"You don't have to. If it's too personal."
"I don't mind."

So he told him how he glowed in the dark. It was more like a story than a piece of information. It didn't make much sense, but it was understandable. It made the one happy to tell it, and it made the other happy to hear it. But then it was over.

"I wish I glowed in the dark."
"Maybe you could."
"Do you want to know how?"

Then he told him. Again it was like a story. Only this time it made sense, though it probably shouldn't have. And he learned how to glow in the dark. He stood there like a miracle, but he didn't glow.

"How come you're not glowing?"
"Can I?"
"Then do it."
"But how?"
"You just do."

He glowed. Now these two people glow in the dark.