Horses in Space by Joseph Hirsch

Editor’s note: Joseph Hirsch is the author of The Dove and the Crow. Read it, won’t you?

bravestarr3030

Awhile back I wrote a book about two boys who grew up in the 80s, and, while researching 80s ephemera for the novel, I kept asking myself, Wasn’t there a cartoon about some cowboys in space? I did a little bit of internet sleuthing, and it turns out, there was.

According to Wikipedia, the most reliable source not just on the internet, but in the entire universe, “BraveStarr is an American Space Western animated television series. The original episodes aired from September 1987 to February 1988 in syndication.” I didn’t even know there was such a subgenre as the “space Western,” but Wikipedia tends to broaden one’s horizons while simultaneously dumbing them down, sort of like the internet as a whole, and apparently the subgenre’s antecedents date back to the early Flash Gordon serials and also informed the décor of the Mos Eisley Cantina in Star Wars (note: the fact that I wrote the previous sentence with a straight face probably suggests I don’t know what I vagina is, but I can assure the reader that at one point, I was, in fact, sexually active).

I took the plunge and watched a full episode on YouTube. It was the pilot episode, so one has to make allowances and not judge too harshly, since any show needs some breathing room, before it is retooled and perfected. This episode in question dealt with Bravestarr, a native American lawman in outer space, and his faithful companion, 30-30, a talking anthropomorphic horse with opposable thumbs who stands upright on two legs, and reminded me quite a bit of the Zooey creatures in Jon Konrath’s brilliant, The Memory Hunter.

Bravestarr sort of looks like a cross between John Redcorn (the Native American who cuckolds Dale Gribble on the cartoon King of the Hill) and the character of Shep Proudfoot in Fargo, the Native American who belt-whips  Steve Buscemi’s ass after Buscemi tells him to “go smoke a fucking piece pipe.”

It’s hard to describe the show conceptually, but I’ll try. It’s basically a cross between Blade Runner and My Little Pony, or perhaps a mashup of Rainbow Brite and William Gibson’s seminal cyberpunk masterwork, Neuromancer, except for kids. The show’s heavy on the moralizing (the moral is delivered at the tail-end of each show, a la G.I. Joe ((kids, don’t do “spin,” a hallucinogenic drug featured on the show whose effects are akin to those of LSD))),and the whole affair is surprisingly multicultural for a Reagan-era relic.

Parts of the show I didn’t understand. For instance, why is the anthropomorphic, gun-toting horse known as “30-30″ when that laser cannon he’s packing is obviously a smoothbore that couldn’t fire Winchester rifle rounds (30-30s) if Bravestarr’s life depended on it? I would also like to know more about the misnamed bipedal horse’s homeland, which is called…wait for it…the Equestroids.

All in all, I didn’t mind wasting eighteen minutes (no commercials on YouTube) watching this thing. In conclusion, let me add that, while this show was nowhere near as good as Sergio Leone’s sweeping hymn to the Western genre, Once Upon a Time in the West, I did actually enjoy watching Bravestarr more than, say, slamming my penis in a car door.

Won’t you take me to Flavor Town: A romance in one act by Joseph Hirsch

paula-dean-riding-a-bacon-wrapped-hot-dog

Editor’s note: Joseph Hirsch is the author of the Paragraph Line Books release The Dove and the Crow.

Guy Fieri, with his iced blond spikey hair and bowling shirt curling with licking flames, looked like a walking time capsule from the year 1994. His arms and neck were lobster-red, on account of his having made the trip in his ’68 ragtop Chevy with the top down. The sweltering Savannah sun dripped humidity as oppressive as thick molasses, and sphagnum dripped from the weeping trees that lined the gravel path leading to the plantation house.

A black woman, melanin deepened almost to cobalt by the sun, bowed as Mr. Fieri parked his car. She wore a French maid’s outfit. “Ma name is Delilah,” she said.

Guy smiled, and turned redder. He pointed a beefy forearm toward the woman and said, “I love that Georgia accent!”

“Thank ya, Mr. Ferry,” she said, mangling his last name, but charming him all the same. He was famous, the most popular chef with male viewers over at the Food Network, but sometimes people still screwed up his Italian surname when they tried it on for size. He slammed the car door on his ragtop, whose metallic black body was hot enough to hum from the force of the sun.

Another member of the staff appeared. This one was a liveried black man who resembled Uncle Ben, with a wide grin and shock of snowy hair. He stood next to one of the ionic columns fronting the estate, and said, “Ms. Deen will see you now, boss man.” His voice had as much twang to it as a finely-tuned banjo.

Guy stifled a bit of uneasiness, acrid bile swimming in his stomach, and managed a smile. Maybe it was those Extreme Fajita Flingers drenched in Ranch dressing that he ate earlier that were making his gut hurt right now, or it could have been the fact that he hadn’t had a chance to write down his Zing Zang Flank Steak slathered in Donkey Sauce recipe for Ms. Deen, but something was bothering him, deep within the clogged arteries of his heart.

He walked toward the front of the building, tweaked his diamond-studded shades, and said, “Let’s go to Flavor Town!”

The maid and the butler shared a conspiratorial laugh, before the butler said, “That’s what Miss Dean be intending to do, boss.” He opened the front door of the mansion with a white-gloved hand. “She’s about to take you to Flavor Town.”

“I’m ready,” Guy said, his voice gravelly as always, as if he was gargling rubbing alcohol and his glottis was on fire.

“Right this way.” The butler pointed a white glove toward the kitchen, where the rich smell of egg and frying cheese drew him, luring him into the trap that celebrity chef Paula Deen had set for him when she first extended him this invitation to her Savannah mansion.

Guy crossed the kitchen’s threshold, and what he saw horrified him, but it was too late to turn back. The door slammed shut behind him, and he heard the turn of a key whose click echoed as if this room of vulcanized counters, rosined wood, and marble were to be his tomb.

“Hey ya’ll!” Paula Deen’s rubbery double-chin jittered like a turkey waddle. The rest of her flesh, he saw, was not quite as sunburnt. Paula was naked, except for some strange device harnessed around her waist, which was cinched tightly and concealed the vast majority of her stretchmark-scarred, southern fried cellulite.

“Wait a minute,” Guy said, trying the knob of the door behind him again, to no avail. “This isn’t Flavor Town!” Celebrity Chef Paula Deen smiled, and she savored his fear like the sadistic mistress she was. She could smell the terror in the sweat that dripped from the gelled liberty spikes jutting from the chef’s platinum blonde cockscomb.

Paula turned so that she was facing him now directly now. Some sort of a confectionary phallus, a strap-on made from a frozen wedge of cheesecake, jutted from the leather and brass studded harness she wore around her waist.

“Sugar,” she said, accent dripping Georgia pride and hospitality. “I don’t know if you got taste buds in that sweet little ass of yours, but if so…” She walked until she was behind him, and shoved him up against the vulcanized kitchen range. “You’re going to Flavor Town. You’re going to Flavor Town, long and hard.”

“Wait a minute!” He held up a hand in protest, but Paula gripped his right forearm, and his other arm, and pinned both limbs against the tiled countertop.

The Georgian chef undid Guy’s belt in one swift motion, and his pants dropped to the floor. “Ain’t no ‘wait a minute,’ sugar.” She leaned closely into his right ear, bit the fleshy lobe, and her hot breath came in minty gusts that smelled like chilled Georgian julep.

“Rachael Ray’s more of a man than you are.” She wended her right hand beneath the fabric of his boxer shorts, which were patterned with licking tendrils of red flame, just like his trademark bowling shirt. “Ain’t gonna be no problem, is it, sugar?” She now licked the ear into which she spoke, and Guy, against his will, noticed his prostate slicking with volutes of ass milk, nature’s donkey sauce.

Paula slowly slid the middle finger of her right hand into Guy Fieri’s puckered sphincter. Guy let out his trademark growl, followed by a high pitched squeal counterpointed by the reflexive contraction of his anal muscles, as he accommodated Ms. Deen’s finger to the last knuckle.

“That’s it, sugar. Let Mama bring out the bitch in you.”

Guy leaned forward on the table, fanning his arms on the countertop, forming the wings of an invisible angel with his breaststroke, as Paula wriggled and writhed her finger in his ass until the wedge of frozen cheesecake slid into his sphincter, widening the orifice until the leather harness was flush against the flabby celebrity chef’s pimply ass.

She massaged his shoulders and whispered a compliment in his saliva-slicked ear. “You give up the balloon knot like a pro.”

“Dick me down!” Guy Fieri shouted, bucking up against the wedge of cheese, taking it like a newly-inducted catamite. “Take me to Flavor Town!”

“You know,” Paula said, casually as she bucked against him, the frozen cheesecake propagator moving on a trajectory smooth as Astroglide on eiderdown, now that Guy’s prostate was pumping like a newly-discovered oil patch.

“That bitch Barbara Walters said my Cookbook for the Lunch Box Set was something I should be ashamed of.” Paula worked her hips as if she was a schoolgirl hoola-hooping on a hot spring day. Her hips swept left and right, a loving orbit that made Guy insensate with pleasure and made it all the more difficult to hear the words she spoke as she sodomized him. “She wanted to know who was I to tell kids to have cheesecake for breakfast, chocolate cake and meat loaf for lunch.”

Paula pulled the wedge of frozen cheesecake from Guy’s ass, and there was a suctioning pop as the gourmet strap-on came free of the now-widened rectum. Guy reached his hands behind his back, pulled his ass cheeks apart in order to make it easier for Paula Deen to reenter him, at the moment of her choosing.

“I say better fat and happy than thin and sad.”

“Please!” Guy moaned. He wriggled his ass from left to right, one-half of an unfulfilled mating ritual, begging for that sweet cheesecake cock to couple with his rectum again.

“‘Please’ what, sugar?”

“Bang me till I have type two diabetes in my asshole!”

“You want that Diabetus?” She said, pronouncing the word like TV spokesman Wilford Brimley.

“I got to have that diabetes in my asshole!”

Paula grabbed a fistful of Guy’s liberty hair spikes, caked with gel and hard as dry spaghetti. She guided his face toward a saucepan of heavy chocolate syrup that was untouched on the countertop until now. She spoke derisively. “That uppity Negress Michelle Obama wants kids doing jumping jacks twenty-four hours a day. Southern kids is meant to be fat.”

She slammed Guy’s face into the saucepan, until it was coated in a thick layer of chocolate. “We do things different down here under the banner of the Stars and Bars.”

Guy attempted to speak, with his face submerged in the chocolate. Ebony bubbles exploded as he struggled to breathe. Paula pulled his head from the pan where he’d just endured the chocolate waterboarding. His face was now covered in thick candied chocolate, and, though the confection was far tastier than burnt cork, she thought this delectable blackface looked a site better than that of the famed minstrel, Al Jolson.

She licked the face of her newly-christened darkie, and as the Food Network‘s Guy Fieri experienced an earthshaking orgasm in his quaking prostate, which put him up in his tiptoes like a ballerina, he knew he was not only Paula Deen’s bitch, but her total and absolute slave now.

1882: A James Odyssey by Joseph Hirsch

the_assassination_of

Editor’s note: Joseph Hirsch is the author of The Dove and the Crow, the latest release from Paragraph Line Books.

I’ve read far more books than I’ve seen films, which means that after I’ve read a book, I tend to know whether or not I’ve encountered greatness. This isn’t always the case with movies, since, as mentioned, I’m not as familiar with movies as I am with books. The first time I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey, I didn’t say to myself, “That was great!” as I would after reading a great book. I said to myself “What the hell was that?”

Most movies just don’t work for me. I think a small handful are great, and I watch them repeatedly, because they never get old to me. These films include Dawn of the Dead (the George A Romero 1979 version), Once Upon a Time in America, 2001: A Space Odyssey (as I mentioned before), and now, most recently The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. It is, as I think John Lennon once observed about 2001: A Space Odyssey, the kind of thing a fellow can watch once a week.

Even a good movie is one I don’t want to see twice, but with the great ones, no matter how many times I see them, it’s always a new experience. Something changes, and it always feels like the first viewing. So what, I keep asking myself, keeps bringing me back to Jesse James (forgive the truncation of the long title, which was a point of contention with a lot of critics, who thought it, and the film, too languorous)?

People who love the movie (and it has quite a few devotees) cite things like the wonderful cinematography and the lush score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, along with meticulous period detail and Oscar-worthy performances. These people are all correct, to one degree or another, but talent and production values alone don’t bear obsessive repeat viewings that still don’t begin to unlock the mystery contained in a great film.

It seems strange to compare a period Western to a great science fiction classic, but I believe both 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Assassination of Jesse James produced the same reaction in me upon initial viewing, made me scratch my head and say to myself What the hell was that?

Awhile back I was watching a documentary about the filmmaker Stanley Kubrick, and,  as the subject invariably turned to his SF masterpiece, someone (I forget who and I’m too lazy to check) observed that “the pieces don’t quite fit, and this gives the film its mysterious structure,” or words to that effect. Whoever made this observation is right, both about the structure of 2001, and about how this disjointedness is an asset rather than a liability.

I won’t recap the plot of 2001 for the reader at this point. Anyone crazy enough to follow my logic this far has already seen both movies. Suffice it to say that Jesse James jumps all over the place in narrative terms, just like 2001. It starts out being about Jesse and his brother and a gang of petty thieves, with the Coward Robert Ford orbiting them as a hanger-on.

Then there is a subplot involving Jessie’s cousin, Wood Hite, played Jeremy Renar, who becomes insulted when another James Gang member sleeps with “his daddy’s wife.” The movie at this point does a brilliant job of conveying Jesse’s paranoia, as he rides around visiting various members of his gang, trying to ferret out their degree of loyalty or treachery, in conversations that take quite a while to unfold.

Eventually, brothers Bob and Charlie Ford conspire to either kill or apprehend Jesse James in order to claim the reward offered for the outlaw’s hide. There are very few shootouts, no Indians raids or whooping war parties in the movie, and there is quite a bit of back-shooting; the only face-to-face gunfights are clumsy affairs.

I heard that Rock Hudson walked out of the premier screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey, muttering to himself “Can someone tell me what the hell that was all about?”

I could imagine John Wayne having a similar reaction to the almost anti-Western demystification that is Jesse James. But here’s the thing: as the movie deconstructs the myth of Jesse James, it constructs an entirely new puzzle, not the sort of deliberately enigmatic structure of a David Lynch movie (sorry David), but something arrived at more organically.

At some point, as the title of the film makes clear, Bob Ford shoots Jesse James, and just as 2001’s Astronaut Bowman races helplessly through a tunnel of light and arrives to face his death in the form of a black monolith, Bob Ford is pushed forward, propelled through train rides and saloons toward the final moment where Edward O’Kelly shouts “Hello, Bob!” before discharging his shotgun into the Coward’s brain.

I have watched the following sequence hundreds, if not thousands of times:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHKE_L76JG4

I have watched it and thought about the year I spent in Iraq, my own false bravado as a young man serving in an occupying Army, my own “pretensions of ruthlessness,” cold-bloodedness,” and “dispassion.” I have watched the sequence on nights when I stayed up wondering if there was a kernel of truth contained at the heart of Christianity, if in fact there is an afterlife, and I have watched the sequence on days when thoughts of suicide flittered through my mind like moths trapped beneath lampshades.

Forget that scene, though. Take another. Try this one:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFaCvyT8Mpw) So many scenes in the movie already have the mythopoetic feel of having existed forever on celluloid, like the backseat car scene in On the Waterfront, or any immortal scene in Casablanca or The Godfather that you care to name. I don’t care much for Brad Pitt outside of this performance, and, since I watch the same four or five movies over and over again, I’ll probably never ever watch another movie with Casey Affleck in it. But they (and the entire supporting cast) are men possessed in this movie. The performances feel haunted, as if the men we’re watching on-screen are like Bela Lugosi or Rudolph Valentino, and have been dead for a long time already. Much ink has been spilled damning and praising this film, but my favorite observation is from film critic Stephen Whitty, who said the movie was an “epic film that’s part literary treatise, part mournful ballad, and completely a portrait of our world, as seen in a distant mirror.” So many period dramas feel like forced affairs, where modern actors play dress up and fail to really give the viewer the sense that they are inhabiting the past. Jesse James, along with Once Upon a Time in America and Barry Lyndon, is a rare bird, a period piece that pulls off the impossible trick of making the viewer feel as if they are seeing a movie filmed in the distant past.  Watch this scene with Sam Rockwell, portraying Robert’s brother, Charley Ford:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fi5orKhETo

Think of a man you know or knew from real life, guilt-stricken, broken, an alcoholic uncle perhaps, or cousin who committed suicide. Tell me that’s not him.

I’ll put this piece to bed before I make a claim too wild for even the most indulgent reader to countenance. I’ll close, though, by saying that, having watched this movie a few hundred times, and preparing to watch it a few hundred more, there is an adjective I would use to describe it that I’ve never used to describe a movie (and probably never will use again): It is a wise film, a movie that knows things, about youth, aging, regret, shame, and guilt.

Jack Nicholson once observed that, whatever one thought about Kubrick’s films, one had to acknowledge that his movies were conscious. That’s a strange way to refer to a film, as if it was a sentient entity, but that’s the way I feel about The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. It is, like 2001, a movie that laughs at me and beats me every time I try to unriddle it.

Now available from Paragraph Line Books

dove and crow cover

The Dove and the Crow: Now available from Paragraph Line Books 

Meet the Crow: He’s been around for hundreds of years. He took scalps in the time of Cortez and Columbus. He skins men and makes rugs of their hides, lassos of their intestines. Right now he’s angry, and out for blood.

Meet the Dove: Matina’s a whore at the Maison de Joie, with more mojo than you can shake a stick at. It’s been said that, with just one bat of her eyelashes, she can turn pennyroyal tea into tincture of opium. 

Meet the Tracker: Dognose Jones, the adopted son of a Cherokee medicine man, has a special gift. He can smell his prey like a bloodhound scenting its chase. 

Welcome to the Wild, Weird West.

Coming soon from Paragraph Line Books

dove and crow cover

Coming Soon, from Paragraph Line Books, The Dove and the Crow… a new novel by Joseph Hirsch…

Meet the Crow: He’s been around for hundreds of years. He took scalps in the time of Cortez and Columbus. He skins men and makes rugs of their hides, lassos of their intestines. Right now he’s angry, and out for blood.

Meet the Dove: Matina’s a whore at the Maison de Joie, with more mojo than you can shake a stick at. It’s been said that, with just one bat of her eyelashes, she can turn pennyroyal tea into tincture of opium. 

Meet the Tracker: Dognose Jones, the adopted son of a Cherokee medicine man, has a special gift. He can smell his prey like a bloodhound scenting its chase. 

Welcome to the Wild, Weird West.

24 Points: The Ghost of Barry Brown by Joseph Hirsch

Barry_Brown

Editor’s note: Joseph Hirsch is the author of several books, including Kentucky Bestiary and the upcoming Paragraph Line Books release The Dove and the Crow. You can find him at www.joeyhirsch.com.

  1. I started writing for real, during my last year in the Army, when I was stationed at Fort Bliss, in El Paso, Texas.
  2. Every Friday night, after my company was released from duty, I would run up to my barracks room, grab my laptop, and then head back downstairs to the quad. Then I would call a cab and have the cabbie drive me to the local Extended Stay.
  3. I wrote a short story in my hotel room every Friday night. Saturdays I edited the stories, and Sunday mornings I submitted them, after which I would take a cab back to the base and get ready for Monday morning, and a return to duty.
  4. I was part of an Air Defense Artillery battalion, and I spent my days walking beneath the hot Texas sun, between rows of missiles and radars, thinking about my year in Iraq, and also about ideas for more short stories.
  5. I checked my email slavishly for messages from publishers. I got a ton of rejection slips, some of them mean-spirited and discouraging; others were indifferent, and obviously form letters not meant to be taken personally.
  6. One day I checked my email and there was an acceptance letter from Underground Voices. “This is good,” was the subject line of the email, and the body of the email read, “If it is still available, we would like to purchase it for $30 and run it in our November online edition.” It felt like my heart had stopped beating in my chest, and though it’s obviously impossible, it felt like my heart didn’t start beating again until November 1st.
  7. November did come, and with it, a check in the mail from Underground Voices. I remember walking to the PX on-post, my desert suede boots crunching over sand and dirt, until I reached the bank and cashed the check. I don’t remember anything about the bank teller, except that she was an attractive woman, and that I desperately wanted her to look at me and not see another war-shattered boy, but rather, a writer.
  8. I bought myself a steak dinner that night, and, as I was eating, I kept thinking to myself, I paid for this meal with my imagination.
  9. Of course I read my story on Underground Voices (here it is, if you’re curious: http://www.undergroundvoices.com/UVHirschJoseph.htm),  and I was proud to bursting, walking under the sun on those long, hot, Texas days, speaking to the missiles around me, silently shouting, I’m a writer!
  10. The problem, though, was that my story was not the best to appear in Underground Voices that month. I am, as the writer John Fante once said about himself, “a master at being spellbound by my own prose,” but not even I could convince myself that my story was better than one called The Screenwriter, by some guy named James Brown (here it is, if you’re curious: http://www.undergroundvoices.com/UVBrownJames.htm)
  11. I read the story with mounting jealousy, and thought back to what Stephen King had once said about being a young unpublished writer, and the first time he discovered he was doing better than a hack whose work had seen print. He described the moment as being akin to the loss of one’s virginity, the sober, objective instant wherein one realizes that, despite the doubt and insecurity, they are in fact good enough to be a professional writer.
  12. I had realized before that I wasn’t the worst writer in the world, but encountering The Screenwriter, still high on the wings of my first sale, I had to privately admit that there were some writers I would never equal. James Brown took my literary virginity, which might be an odd statement for a heterosexual man to make, but there it is.
  13. Some years later, I was no longer in the Army, and, though I had sold a short story here and there (and even a novella), I had pretty much given up on life, and writing.
  14. I read somewhere that men think about sex once every eleven seconds, but it seemed that, the further and further I got from Iraq and the Army, the more I thought about the war, and that my sex and suicide wires had somehow gotten crossed. It would not be hyperbole to say that I thought about suicide every eleven seconds or so.
  15. One night, having given up on life and writing, I found myself watching TV, as people who have given up tend to do.
  16. There was a movie on the tube, a quiet Western about two boys out west who were on the run from the Union Army. The movie looked to have been made in the seventies, and I didn’t think it took a genius to realize that it was an obvious analogy for dodging the draft during the Vietnam War. It was what the critic Jonathan Rosenbaum once called an “acid Western.”
  17. One of the two boys running from the Army was a young and beautiful Jeff Bridges. The other was a young and beautiful man with big brown eyes whose name I didn’t know, but whose face I couldn’t stop staring at. I wondered what it was about this quiet Western-with boys scrounging on the prairie for food, screwing whores, shooting rabbits, and dodging Indians- that held me in thrall.
  18. I also wondered why I had never heard of the brown-haired boy, who was acting circles around a very talented and very young Jeff Bridges. I watched the movie until it ended, on a freeze-frame of the boys brandishing six shooters in a Wells Fargo bank. Beautiful ragtime piano music played, and the credits rolled.
  19. I found out from the credits that the brown-haired boy’s name was Barry Brown. Curious, I stood and went over to the computer which I had been treating in my depression and isolation as little more than a glorified porn machine, since I no longer used it for writing. I went to Wikipedia and discovered a few things about Barry Brown.
  20. The director Peter Bogdanovich had said that he “was the only American actor you can believe ever read a book,” and that Barry Brown had committed suicide in Silverlake, California, in June of 1978.
  21. I knew why I wanted to commit suicide. I was a failed writer, an ex-soldier whose short stories had netted him about $500 over the course of his short career. But why would a beautiful and talented young man like Barry kill himself?
  22. I kept reading the Wikipedia page, and discovered that the actor Barry Brown was the older brother of James Brown, the same James Brown who had written circles around me a few years ago, when my first short story got published and I still believed in myself, and in life and writing.
  23. I read James Browns’ books, The Los Angeles Diaries and This River. I discovered how Barry had committed suicide (with a shotgun, if I remember correctly), and I also learned that James had to clean up the mess after his brother took his own life, soaking up brain matter with a sponge and putting bloody clothes in a trash bag, or something to that effect. I also discovered, in the course of reading James’ books, that his sister Marilyn had also tragically taken her own life some years after Barry’s death.
  24. There are a lot of reasons that might explain why I didn’t commit suicide, and why I started writing again, but much of it comes down to thinking about myself and my younger brother (who just had a son, making me an uncle), and a lot of it comes down to the books James Brown has written, and the ghost of Barry Brown.

Ten Things that Piss Me Off About My Neighbor’s Cat Phil, Who Is Staring Through the Window at Me, Mewing, While I Write This

IMG_2166

1. How did that cat get in here? Goddamn it, Phil, I paid a lot for that couch. It is NOT your litterbox/scratching post, you fucking shitbird.
2. Phil, you will never kick that other cat’s ass. Especially not at 2 in the morning.
3. No, Phil, the dead bird on my welcome mat is not going to pay me back for my lost sleep/fucked-up couch.
4. This is the third computer keyboard I’ve had since Phil decided that it’s a proper place for a nap.
5. Cheez-Its, Phil? Seriously? It’s not a proper snack for a cat. If you want to eat something, try out the goddamned mouse who’s also been eating my Cheez-Its.
6. Cat hair on everything. Cat hair inside my mouth.
7. Did I mention I’m allergic to cats? Or at least to Phil.
8. I haven’t met the woman who supposedly owns Phil, but I hate her. That voice! “Phi-i-i-l! Come get your kitty yum-yums!” When she shouts, I can see the hair raising on Phil’s back.
9. The claw marks on my shins/forearms are finally healing. So… yeah.
10. Phil… is my only friend.

New book out

Our latest title, After the Jump, has emerged from the womb, covered over in a goopy coating of literary afterbirth. If you like books… this is definitely a book.* It has a cover and words and everything. Perhaps you should tell your friends, (if you have any). (Loser.)

41gSEZ-wP7L

 

*Your results may vary. Any rights under this plan shall commence procedures to the shares of the year following governed by giving consent of their satisfaction that one (1) A portion of effecting, or affairs, a Participant, may amend, alter or both parties, that period. (2) The Courts in the business on such Holder is an election under this Agreement may provide that the form of cancellation, however, nothing in this plan or retailers for Invalidity. (3) The Detachable Date, upon surrender for such Holder as instructed by the Stock already owned or more warrants alone upon the case may elect to make any Participant.

Your Doom Amuses Me

“Come on, CNN! Bring me there!” Elroy said, flipping to channel 742, CNN-Plus-Plus, which was entirely devoted to plague and pestilence. The week before had been Bubonic Plague Week, which was approximately ten times better than Shark Week. The old tube TV glowed and hummed. It was ever-so-slightly too green and he couldn’t seem to fix it, no matter how much swearing and slapping he applied to the problem.

Beside him, on the TV tray, was Allow Me to Cough Gently Into My Closed Fist: Selected Emails by Jonathan Franzen, a book created by Franzen’s Internet provider out of confidential emails he’d sent to his closest friends, other writers, and his editor, mostly trashing his closest friends, other writers, his editor, and his Internet service provider. Michiko Kakutani from the New York Times called the book, “…a triumph!” and “a cautionary example for all of us who blindly click on ‘I agree’ when installing software.”

He sat on an overstuffed, plaid-cloth Sears Barcalounger left over from his bachelor days. It reeked of spilled beer and piss from that time he fell asleep in it and his old college roommate–a business major who’d answered an ad on Craigslist for a quiet, studious student (he was none of those things)–stuck Elroy’s hand in a bucket of ice water. He woke up to drenched pants, a wet hand and a shirtless group of post-pubescent boys wearing tighty-whities on their heads and making devil’s horns with their hands, tongues lolling out joyously. “Got you, motherfucker! Got you!” No amount of cleaner could get the smell out, so his favorite chair was consigned to the basement after his marriage.

“Elroy! Your supper’s getting cold!” Liddy shouted from upstairs. Didn’t she realize that basement time was sacrosanct? That the annoyances of the day should remain upstairs? “Supper”! Who still said “supper” anyway? When would they ever have sex again? he wondered. It was up to her. Why was it at her discretion? She caught him jerking off in the shower the day before and wept in front of him, leaving the shower door open so he could witness all her despair over the state she’d placed him in.

“You’re not even thinking of me, are you?” she gurgled through all the tears.

The sad fact of the matter was that he was imagining Discovery iD correspondent Tamron Hall wearing a leather bustier, cracking a whip, in stiletto heels, hollering, “I know what you’ve been up to in your basement! Our cameras were on the scene!”

CNN-Plus-Plus did not disappoint. Somewhere in the third world, some brown people were vomiting up their own entrails, crying tears of blood, some yellowish stuff oozing from their foreheads. This was new. This was definitely new. Elroy sat up involuntarily, in a position that was sure to give him a slight backache later on. Somewhere in his subconscious mind he knew this, but he was mesmerized by all the wonderful death on screen.

The florescent tube above his head flickered and emitted a strange hum. Without taking his eyes off the screen… actual dead people, stacked in a pyre, kerosene was being applied… he picked up a broomstick next to his chair and used it to poke the light box overhead, which temporarily stopped the hum. He’d fix the thing one of these days. It was on a list that Liddy kept upstairs, tacked to the refrigerator with a magnet she’d bought at that tacky resort they’d stayed in during their honeymoon in the Dominican Republic. The best part of the holiday was walking along the chain link fence at the edge of the resort where the ragged children begged for food and change, pustulating boils raised on their limbs and faces, wearing t-shirts for championships that never happened.

“It’s going to get cold!” she shouted from the top of the stairs. Ugh. It was like having another boss. His boss at work kept catching him on his Samsung Galaxy looking at MassMurderWatch.com, his favorite news aggregator. He couldn’t work all the time, could he? Jesus H. Christ! His boss would give him this whole tsk, tsk business, how he should only look at that shit during designated break times. Fifteen minutes every two hours, and forty-five minutes for lunch, was hardly enough time to enjoy anything like a break, especially when he had to come home to Liddy, who was doing some sort of nesting bullshit now that she was preggers.

He thought about having to deal with the fucking kid once the little bundle of joy popped out of Liddy’s uterus. It was a girl, too, (thanks ultrasound, you killer of surprises!) so his daughter probably wouldn’t want to watch The Government Is Hiding Serial Killers in Secret Labs in Abandoned West Virginia Coal Mines with her old man. Of course not.

Elroy often contemplated his misery. The wallowing felt good in its way.

“Elroy!”

“In a minute!” he shouted. He turned back to the screen. The pile of bodies was on fire. He’d missed the moment of the lighting. Fuck! And no DVR down here in the funky basement either, so he couldn’t go back ten seconds to see the flames’ initial bursting upon the disease-ravaged carcasses. Goddamn, his life!

The light box buzzed again. For the millionth time, he bashed it with the broomstick, this time more violently than ever before. The broomstick smashed the tube and crystal particles rained down upon him. It was lovely. But he wasn’t alive to appreciate it. The broomstick jammed in the socket once occupied by the tube and an electrical pulse ran down through it into his body, electrocuting him and setting the old cloth Barcalounger ablaze, the cleaning chemicals saturating the cloth turning the fire as hot as a kiln. Poof!

From behind the washer/dryer combo, the ghost of Rod Serling appeared. “I love irony,” the black-and-white apparition said. “Consider this… a man… ah, fuck it.” He lit a Pall Mall using the flames off Elroy’s burning corpse, and then warmed his transparent hands over the body. It was cold being dead. Cold and lonely.

The tiny wisp of soul that Elroy’s body once contained flew up and away like a bottle rocket, off to haunt Tamron Hall.

In the years that followed, Elroy’s death was written about extensively in The Journal of Spontaneous Human Combustion.

Liddy remarried a few years later. And their girl didn’t turn out to be a jerk. Liddy was finally happy. So this story has a happy ending, right? Right.