Monday, May 23, 2011


The smell of my peach boutique body lotion didn't mesh with stench of stale piss.  I pulled the baggy coveralls over my shoulders and steamed over the fact that I spent all day finding the perfect pair of jeans to make my butt appear smaller and tighter, like an apricot, only to have the camouflage form my body into a shapeless blob like a paper doll.  I pulled up the zipper and breathed through my mouth to block out the olfactory attack of leftover doe scent.
Keith didn't pick up on my frustration.  Every forced sigh and huff I pushed had to compete with the low noted braying of the hounds.  Keith had his back turned to me.  The top part of his coveralls hung loose around his hips; as if he were shedding his skin.  He pumped his shotgun with the barrel aimed at the huge moon. 
“When you go coon huntin' you only have to find one good tree.”  Keith said.  “Then the problem is getting them down.”
Keith's Toyota truck was parked by a dirt path.  We were at the back end of a pasture that the path encircled like a lasso.  I was apprehensive about going into the tree line since the moonlight appeared to stop there.  Keith jumped on the tailgate of the truck.  His tight muscular body bent no more than the thick handle of a rawhide whip.  The defined line between his bicep and tricep was the perfect place for shadows to gather.  This detail stirred my juices and it reminded me that this wasn't what I meant by coon hunting.  When I met Keith at some backwoods party my drunken mind leaped to sex.  His tight white t shirt could have been another layer of skin with its soft crevices and its warmth from body heat.  His khaki carpenter's pants held a bulge as big as a baby's elbow, and his hips were as thick as the pummel horses I saw on the Olympics.
Of course his conversation about guns and hunting was completely boring.  My mind amused itself as he jabbered on about 'coon' hunting.  The word evoked some dirty sexual connotation in me.  The smoothness of the word like the inside of an oyster shell, and the synonyms seemed to fit my mood after a long relationship of bad sex.  Coon...Poon...Cunt...Clit.  Words so dirty I couldn't even say them in the dark without blushing.  My hands found reasons to crawl over him during the party.  I should have known we were not on the same level when we made this date to go 'coon' hunting instead of a backseat romp at the time of my drunken stupor. 
Keith tugged on the collar of his overalls to loosen the wedges.
“Grab that shotgun in the seat.  It's a four-ten so it won't hurt ya too bad.  Once I let these dogs out they gonna spit fire into those woods so we have to be ready to go.”
I had never shot a gun in my life.  When I picked it up the weight surprised me.  It was much heavier than the BB guns my brother stockpiled in his closet when we were kids.  The cool oily barrel smelled like my father when he came home from work at the machine shop.  I couldn't associate the thing with death.  The wood on it was polished as shiny as antique furniture, and it seemed like a clunky thing to carry into the woods.
The dog's barking ceased for a few seconds when Keith opened the cage door.  Their nails clicked on the diamond plate of the truck bed and their jump into the woods rattled the dead fall leaves.  Keith took off after them.
“Come on.  Let's go.”
The flashlight attached to his gun belt kept time to the crash of his high steps.  I tried to follow but my clogs constantly slipped off my feet.  Keith turned back and motioned for me to keep up.  My feet moved with short choppy steps, but I had to maneuver around fallen trees and brush instead of going over it.  By the time I got within twenty yards from Keith he took off again to the diminishing sound of the dogs.
The report of Kieth's shotgun rang out when I caught up.  The dogs circled the trees and tried to run up the trunks.  A branch cracked and a raccoon scurried and jumped to a limb the next tree over.  The dogs took off, and their tails wagged so hard it caused their back end to waddle. 
“Head down some and try to catch him before he taps the next tree.”
Keith shot again and my ears began to ring.  I wasn't sure what to do so I just followed the dogs.  My feet drug on the ground and a leaf stem poked through my sock.  The raccoon scampered higher up the tree, and I wasn't sure what part he would try to tap or what tapping was.  I swung my gun up and laid my check into the grove of the stained wood.  I wanted to make a good impression on Keith and become part of his hunter's prey.  My legs were spread wide, and I held my back as stiff as I could.  I tried to line up the raccoon's butt with the notch in the metal tab.
Squeeze slowly.
“Fuckin' dick sniffer.”  I screamed
The searing heat cut through my eye immediately.  I could feel a knot on my cheek swell and tighten like a water blister.  A little blood ran down my face like heavy tears, and a hill of flesh formed in front of my eye.  The shotgun clattered to the ground.  Keith ran up to me and stared at me like I was an animal giving birth. 
“You okay?”  He asked.  “Take your hands from your face and let me see.”
I leaned back and grabbed the coveralls where the pockets should be.  Keith bit his upper lip then turned to look at my profile.
“That ain't gonna look good for a couple'a weeks.  Somebody’s goin'ta think I beat on you.”
His angle didn't really matter to me at the moment.  I wanted to roll my eyes, but I was afraid of the consequences.  I knew I would sound like a baby if I suggested we leave.  My bad eye cried alone.
“We gotta keep moving.  If we don't catch up to the dogs then we will have to sit here all night until they come back.”  Keith said.
“Go ahead.  I'm right behind you.”
His run had a slight march to it.  I traced the bump on my cheek and it felt like lightning run through me.  I picked up the shotgun and walked in the direction Keith had trotted.  The dog's barks echoed from another county, and moonlight leaked through the branches. 
I walked for twenty minutes before I realized I didn't know where I was going.  Keith's shotgun boomed like a transformer exploding, and I switched directions toward the sound.  Eventually I just stopped.  Every tree I passed looked like the one before and after it.  The moon's light only illuminated my next step, and I feared if I went in any farther I would be totally lost.  As I headed back Keith's shotgun rang out twice more.  The sound of the dogs faded away as I made my way, hopefully, to the truck.
After walking a while, I worried when I hadn't reached the field.  My check pulsed with its own heartbeat, and the coveralls caught in the briars.  The sound of the hunt died away when I found a break in the trees.  I wasn't sure what part of the pasture I would end up in, but it wasn't where we had come in at.  A deep gully separated me from the tree line.  It wasn't wide, but decayed limbs, half-rotted couches, and old rusty appliances lined the bottom, making a maze for small critters.  I scanned to see if there was a better way to cross because it looked like the dam had burst at the trash dump and a river of junk flowed through the trees.
A couch shored itself up to the red clay of the embankment.  I nudged it with my foot to test the sturdiness, and it didn't move with a few good kicks.  The cushion on its far end was just a couple of feet away from the other edge.  When I stepped on the first cushion I eased my weight onto it like an Eskimo checking the spring ice.  The fabric ripped when I had both feet planted in the center.  I baby-stepped to the middle with a quicker pace and the couch began to teeter.
My plan was to jump off the arm rest safely on the other side, but as I tried to compensate from the rocking the couch rolled and dumped me in the ditch.  I landed on a pile of brush that cracked after each movement.  As I was about to gain footing something furry stroked my ankle and a rat scurried away to a washing machine.  One of my shoes was missing in the dark brush pile and I ripped the coveralls on a branch when I tried to get up. 
The edge of the embankment was up to my eyes, and I looked out like a soldier from a foxhole.  The moonlight gave the grass blades a blue tinge and something wet absorbed into my sock.  With the shotgun thrown over the ledge, I tried to pull myself up.  The heads of tree roots ducked into the earth like giant worms. Each toe hold I found crumbled at the slightest pressure, and I struggled like a fat kid trying to crawl out of the deep end of a swimming pool.
My breath was labored when I leaned back against the tree on the bank.  I wanted my shoe but I wasn't going back in there to get it.  When I stood up the shotgun's heft was useless in my arms.  The opening for the pasture was just ahead of me, and I limped toward the finish line feeling beaten and abandoned. 
The sound of crashing leaves broke me from my stupor.  Whatever it was that came after me was low and quick as it zigzagged through the brush.  I raised my gun, but this time I aimed by approximation.  The kick of the butt landed on my shoulder like a solid punch.  My shot was meant as a warning, but the brush rattled and then waved to the side as the animal's head slid to a stop.  It took me a minute to figure out what it was.  The face was torn open, and an ear looked ripped from the seam of the head.  The wheezing sounded like a broken kazoo.  My heart thumped hard enough to hit the wall of my chest.  I wasn't sure if I should shoot the dog again or try to find Keith.  Then I wasn't sure how Keith would react if he found out I shot his dog.  We still had a long ride home.
I sat the gun down and walked around the spot for a minute.  The dogs wheeze passed in fainter shallow breaths.  To any onlooker I would have appeared as a witch getting loosened up to cast some spell as I circled the hound’s body.  The looming conflict played itself out over and over in my head.  I pictured the crease in Keith’s forehead as he pushed his eyebrows together, and then I drew a blank.  I hadn't known him long enough to judge whether he would swallow it in silent disgust, or blow up and yell at me like a hurt parent.
The dog’s tail felt slick in my hand.  It didn't work well as a rope to pull his weight.  The back legs caught on every stick and stone, and as I crouched my head pounded from the effort.  When I got him to the side of the ditch I had to push him in with my grip on his belly.  His head lulled as I let go of his collar.  Then he slid slowly down the wall of the ravine and rested against the door of a refrigerator.
When I finally stepped into the tree line I was walking backwards.  My shotgun barrel bobbed at the dark woods in case something else came for me. 
“Deandre.”  Keith yelled.
He waved like a survivor of a plane crash at the truck on the far side of the field.  When I cleared the distance Keith pointed the flashlight in my face.  Black spots floated in my eyes like helium balloons, and the pressure I put on my eye by closing it too tight opened the cut like wet tissue paper. 
“Have you seen Rusty?”  Keith asked.
“You mean your dog?”
“Yeah.  That one is Biscuit and the missing one is Rusty.  Rusty got'ta tracking a deer and runoff.”
I couldn't tell him the way the tail felt oily like a duck's feather.  The way the body formed on a rock, limp, like a hot water bottle.  I didn't even know the dog's name, but I never forgot the way the dirt caked up in the blood-matted wounds as I drug him to the gully. 
I unzipped my coveralls to my belly button, and freed my hair from the clasp.  My top, undamaged, bellied under the soft curves of my bra.  I wanted to feel somewhat sexy as the heel of my only shoe drug the ground.  When I placed the shotgun in the seat of the truck I felt a burden lift from me as my killing rampage finished.
“No, I haven't seen him.  It's been tree after tree, and then the damn gully I had to pass through to get out of the woods.”
“He'll come around in the morning when some of his energy wears off.  What happened to your shoe?”  Keith asked.
.  Keith held the shotgun like he was escorting it, and the tip of his eyebrow placed emphasis on my slowness like a tilde over a Spanish O.  The wood of the gun wedged under his armpit and the barrel lay over his forearm like a date's spindly appendage.  He threw a sack onto the tailgate as the surviving dog sniffed the blood around his shoes.  The soft dead flesh from the bag caused a thud.  The tip of a raccoon’s black tail flopped out of the mouth of the burlap bag, and the thought of eating the poor creature made my stomach roil.  Keith whipped out a knife and the locking mechanism ticked.  Light flashed as the blade tilted in his hand.
“Hold the light for me.”  Keith said.
“What are you going to do?”
The tip of the knife punctured the fur around the raccoon’s neck like an embryonic sac.  The blood started with a drop, deep as a ruby, then flowed out of the skin black.  Keith's fingers soon became coated with it.  I turned my head as the acid built in my throat, but the bouncing flashlight beam warranted disapproving grunts.  Rivulets of blood splintered into different streams as it trickled through the diamond plate of the truck bed.  The raccoon’s skin curled away from its body when the knife filleted it from the muscle.  Around the hard cartilage and skinny bones the metal blade scrapped with the sound of a file.  Once the back hide was removed the rest of the red lump looked rotted with the patches of skin and fur as mold.
Keith flipped the creature over.  The buck knife whittled away between the poor animals legs.  The black circles around its eyes like a mask placed on it before being tortured.  I wasn't hip on animal anatomy but I knew the general area Keith was cutting.
“What are you doing?”  I asked.
“I'm gonna cut the pecker bone out and put it with my collection.”
Keith's rough hands wouldn't do for a successful Mohel.  He twisted the knife handle like he was coring an apple.  The sick glow of the flashlight gave the slick blood on his hands the hue of iodine.  When he pulled the desired piece of meat away from the carcass the sound had a suck to it like opening a jar of pickles.  Wet flakes stuck to the top of the knife hilt.  I swallowed trying to push my stomach down.
“You collect dick bones?  As a hobby?”
“Well.  I keep what I can.  Tomorrow I'll nail the hide on the side of barn to let it cure and dry.”
It took a few minutes for it all to process.  Keith shoved the animal carcass into a bucket, and then carved away at another.  Blood had gotten on my top and I stared at the pile of guts thinking of Keith running through the woods, neutering all the animals.  When he finished he had to drag the other dog away from the mess.  It whined as he stuck his nose to the closed cage door.
“Let's go.  I'll drive back in the morning to pick up Rusty.”  Keith said as he wiped his hand on a rag.
When I sat in the seat my body throbbed like one mass pinched nerve.  Keith handed me a beer from the cooler, and the cold beads of water stung the cut on my cheek as I pressed it to my swollen eye.  He clicked the tab, drained it in one long gulp, and threw the empty into the grass with all the other leftovers from his kills.
“Do you mind taking your coveralls off so no blood gets on the seats?”  He asked.
My feet wobbled as they touched the ground.  The cool air drew goosebumps across my arms as I peeled off the coveralls, but I felt relieved to be rid of it.  The ammonia smell of doe scent hung to my clothes like cigarette smoke.
“Here.”  Keith said as we shut the doors.  “This is the raccoon pecker I keep in my wallet.”
The porous thing felt like it was made of ceramic and chalk.  I twirled it in my fingers as we made our way to the main road.  Near the tip it curved, and the slenderness of it reminded me of a melted birthday candle.  The thicker end looked like the clasp of a hinge, or the unlucky end of a wishbone.  I laughed and laid my head into the seat.  At the start of the night all I wanted was a little bit of dick, and now it lay in my hand.  My body was sore, but not the way I wanted it to be.  I realized I handled this whole situation wrong, and gutless prey is all I ended up being. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Fiction that brings you to your knees

Great writing leaves me devastated at the end of a book.  I think about it and want to hyperventilate, and then I can't write for days.  Charles Bukowski mentions in one of his books that a young hungry writer often compares himself to his heroes to judge how good he may be.  I agree with that.  The current piece I am writing is always my best piece.  Everything before it is just practice.  Over the course of years I found books that are heartbreaking to any writer because the quality and level of craftsmanship will make you want to quit.

These are the books I struggle to become equal with.

The Risk Pool by Richard Russo

I started reading Richard Russo after the movie Nobody's Fool came out in 1995.  Paul Newman played Sunny.  He reminded me so much of my grandfather and once I found the book name in the credits I went out and bought it.  Since I have a habit of reading everything an author writes, I consumed the rest of his library.  When I finished this book the world paused for a minute, and I abandoned the story I was writing. 
Ned Hall, the narrator, wonders when his father may stop by to harass him and his mother again.  Ned's father is a constant nuisance to his mother and somewhat of a mystery to his son.  As the years progress Ned's mother slips into a deep depression and Ned is faced with the challenge of living with a father he hardly knows anything about.  Sam Hall, the father, is not what most people would call a good influence.  He moves the boy in with him above a small department store, teaches him how to shoot pool, and teaches him how to get by.
Each loving touch Russo puts into the details give me the feeling I woke up on the Hall's couch and watched their lives as their voices passed through the room.  By the end, when Ned comes home from college to take care of his father, the book ends and I don't want to leave.  I reread this book every few years.  Russo's other books are great.  In fact his newest That Old Cape Magic is one of his best.  But no book stabs me in the heart more than Risk Pool.

The Death of Sweet Mister by Daniel Woodrell

 Fat Shug Atkins wants something different from life.  He and his mother live in a graveyard, and his mother's boyfriend makes him crawl into people's windows to steal their prescription drugs.  Shug's mother needs someone to take care of her, and will sway at any alpha male or resemblance of security.  As Shug comes of age his affections for his mother tighten as he watches her give up all resemblance of self respect to whatever man comes calling.
Most people know Daniel Woodrell's work from watching the movie Winter's Bone, even though that movie sucked compared to the book.  I love most of Woodrell's southern tales.  The man can lay down a line, and when I finished this book my head shook slowly in disbelief.  If you watch No Reservations, the Anthony Bourdain travel show, then you may have seen Woodrell break his shoulder in the Ozarks episode.  Luckily he can write better than he can take a hit.

The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster

Many people will say the New York trilogy, or Leviathan, are better Auster novels.  I love those books as well, but The Book of Illusions makes a writer stop what he is doing and tell himself not to even try.
David Zimmer is drinking himself to death.  His wife and kids were killed in an airplane crash and now Zimmer can't find a reason for his existence.  The only thing that gives him relief is watching old black and white comedies.  He begins to study the films of Hector Mann and obsesses over the disappearance of the movie star.  After he gathers his research and starts to write a book about Mann, a letter comes from Mann's wife.  Zimmer is sure it is some kind of hoax.  Hector Mann is thought of as being deceased.  When Zimmer goes to meet Hector a whole host of other problems come up.
This is a great novel for writers to study at any level.  The interwoven sub plots and masterful story structure will send you back to articles about plot points, and wondering how to map this book.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Stories You Wouldn't Tell Your Mother Episode 2: Built Like a Brick Shithouse

Episode 2: Built Like a Brick Shithouse

Moonlight glinted of the head of the Bic lighter. The tight hinges of the portable toilet held pressure of the molded plastic door against my back. The smell of lighter fluid burned out the odor of waste sitting days in the sun, and I wanted my money's worth. I wanted to see the whole unit melt like a plastic bucket. The fumes of the lighter fluid made me light headed. I stood back to let in more fresh air. My hands slicked with sweat, and my thumb didn't want to flick the bic's wheel the right way.

“Come on lets go.” Gerald yelled from the window of the SUV.
“Not until I see it burn.” I whispered to myself.

I felt the ridges of the lighter embed in my thumb. When I tried to spark it again it slipped from my hand, skipped of the rim, and dropped like a rock. I heard the gurgle of the water as it was accepted with the sewage.

“Shit.” Literally.
I sulked from the tree line back to the Blazer. Dense pine trees stood around like skinny people after a U2 concert.

“Does anybody have another lighter. I dropped that one.”
Gerald and Sonny glanced at each other and laughed. The dim interior light looked smog covered at the last of sunset. The bass of a rap song drowned out the lyrics, and Gerald held up his hands open-palmed.

“That was the only one.”
They looked at each other and started snickering again. I tore into the console and started digging through loose CDs and empty cigarette packs. The speakers buzzed when I pushed in the dash lighter.

“What are you doing?” Sonny asked.

A lock of brown hair touched his eyebrow. His hallowed face broke through the shadows of the backseat like a diver coming out of water. He looked at me with a grin of amusement. A belittling grin where the corners of the mouth don't rise above the top lip. I found a piece of paper and wrapped Gerald's registration in it.
“I am going to try and catch this paper on fire with the car lighter.” Bass came back to the speakers after the button of the lighter popped out. When I jammed the tear shaped end of the paper into the coils the thin line of fire moved up the crinkles slowly without producing a flame. I blew above the ash like a mother blowing on a child's cut.

“I think I got it.” I said and moved back toward the plastic toilet. No one stole from me and got away with it.
With my left hand I cupped the fire to shield it from the stream of wind I would create from walking. Part of a flame rose when the fire hit the twisted knot that looked like an oak root. I rubbed the paper on the walls in the pattern of the cross, and nothing caught. I picked the can of lighter fluid off the floor, but it doused out the flame. I threw the paper into the pit. It might as well have that too.

When I ducked into the passenger seat Gerald turned the radio down. They wouldn't want to do what I was going to tell them to do.

“Well?” Gerald asked. His cheeks hung low on his face and drooped below his jaw line.
“Drive to the store. We're going to get a lighter and some matches.”
“That didn't work either?”

They both laughed as Gerald put the car in drive and we did a three point turn to the street. Anger built in me like a Pepsi bottle that has been shaken too much. My finger nails dug into my palm as I clinched my fist.

“Your going to make us late for the movie.” Sonny said. His arms rested on his knees and his head poked through the seats.
“Fuck the movie. It will be playing every night this month.”
“Why are you so hellbent on setting this thing on fire?” Gerald asked.
“I told you he owed me money. I don't work for free. That son-of-a-bitch owes me one hundred and sixty four dollars, and I am going to get it one way or another.”
“Is it worth a hundred and sixty-four dollars to go through all this trouble?” Gerald asked.
“I tell you what, you give me the money if it isn't worth all the trouble. Then we can go to your faggy Beavis and Butthead movie without another word said.”

Streetlights flitted across the hood as we made our way into Ingles' parking lot. Empty rows were painted on the concrete slanted like dried fish bones.

“Didn't you bust the back axle of his truck then abandon it in Inman? Sounds to me like you might owe him some money.” Sonny said.
The car pulled up into the fire lane, and I had the door open before we stopped.

“When you become the magistrate then you can make your own fucking ruling. Until then lend me five bucks since I didn't get a paycheck this week.”
I held my hand up in the silence. Sonny huffed, and the back seat made raspberry sounds from the friction of his jeans as he moved. The bill landed in my hand with a hard slap, and I slammed the door of the car on my way into the store.

I knew my actions appeared illogical as the large box of kitchen matches and a two pack of Bics trundled down the conveyer belt. I was owed for the twenty hours of work, and I didn't ask for that job. The cashier smiled at me like she was trying to remember my face. As she handed me the receipt I snatched up the bag. Closer to the exit I heard the boom and vibrations from Gerald's car like a whale singing for company.

“All right. Let's go, let's get this over with.” I said
I thought they didn't hear me. There heads bobbed to Tupac's new disc, and their hair created static with the drooping headliner. Gerald rolled through the parking lot then peeled his tires into the street. I let my window down and the smell of honeysuckle wafted by me like the passing of a pretty girl. I hoped the music would carry us to the deed. With my cohorts lost in the emptiness I could get it over with without any more questions. A mile or two before the pull off, Gerald turned the volume down with his remote control.

“You sure you want to do this? You haven't committed arson yet? This is new for even you.” Sonny said.
“If I could get a little help this would go much more quickly. You know, like I helped you catch your step-mom cheating on your dad. And I helped you break the back window out of Jeremy Bergoins car for stealing your stuff. Co-operation. Teamwork”
They were almost finished laughing by the time we pulled into the construction site.

“You act like we haven't been in this same situation with you a hundred times already.” Gerald said
“Egging the police station after you got that ticket.” Sonny said
“Stealing from The Pantry when they wouldn't sell you a pack of cigarettes.” Gerald said.
“Destroying Jamie Brooks house while I screwed his chubby sister. He just beat you gambling.”

“So what you are telling me is that you guys are used to stuff like this. So this shouldn't be much of a problem?” I asked
“Alright. I will help you out. Turn the car around so we can get out of here quicker.” Sonny said.

He crawled out into the sound of crickets fast and shrill. I held the front seat up and gripped the block of matches in my hand. The gravel was new and hadn't washed away yet. Our footsteps crunched like we were walking in light snow.

“What do you want me to do?” Sonny asked
“Hold the door open while I try to light it on fire.”  I said

Sonny didn't watch me. His face was pointed toward the ground like a hostage who fell asleep tied to a chair. One of his feet faced the car, and he was crouched like he was ready to run. I lit the kitchen matches and laid them near the rim of the seat. Their flames wafted from the draft before dying. I rubbed them on the walls, threw them in places where lighter fluid had pooled, but everything had evaporated. What was left in the can dripped out onto the seat when I turned it upside down. When I put a match to it it burned off quickly and barely singed the plastic.

“Dammit.” I yelled as I threw the matches to the ground.
“Come on. Speed it up.” Sonny said.
“The lighter fluid evaporated. What am I supposed to do.”
Sonny let go of the door and it thwacked me in the back. I lit another match and set the whole box on fire. It produced a good flame, but died out as well. Tension crawled up to the base of my neck. I punched the wall and stomped out to the ground.

“Well?” Sonny asked.
With all of my weight I ran into the door. The two by four base resisted like a tackle dummy. I charged again and the toilet rocked back, and when I moved away for another wind up the portable toilet lurched forward, and fell on the door.

“There. Are you happy?” Sonny asked.
My heart pumped and my hands shook. I didn't feel relieved at all. I kicked the roof and didn't even make a dent. Then the smell caught me. It stuck in the back of my throat, and when I exhaled it was like a burp I could taste. I stepped away and my shoes felt slick as they scraped across the ground.

“God dammit.”
“Don't tell me you got it on you. Shitfoot. All these months you been goin round cleaning up other people's shit, and now you get it on you. I told you Shitfoot. I told you when you started this stupid job you would get somebody else's shit on you. And now your Shitfoot. Hoppin round like it was a surprise.”

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Review: In Fifty Years We'll All Be Chicks by Adam Carolla

Adam Carolla seems like an okay guy to me.  I watched Life Line when I was younger, and I watched the man show on occasion.  What really pulled me about this book was the title.  How can it not suck a man in?

This book is sub par for comedy books.  Carolla delves a little into his past, and dedicates a paragraph to how he got his start.  Mostly the book hits a rant about small details.  He could have had Dennis Miller ghost write it and it would not surprise me.  But with the current competition in comedians like Sarah Silverman and Tina Fey publishing books, it gets weaker with comparison.  There are a few funny observations, but when the reader gets half way through with the book they may feel like they are in the middle of some routine.

It’s definitely better than Steve Martin’s book Pure Drivel, but not much else.  If you need some brain candy after a slog of literary blocks then this book is definitely a guilty pleasure.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Adventures of Worried Duck

Most stuffed animals look as if they could have been any animal if they had a different head.  My daughter’s stuffed animal collection is mostly stocked with bears that have the same body of a monkey, or elephants with the body of bears.  Worried Duck couldn’t have been anything else but Worried Duck.  His round bright yellow head was modeled after a traffic light, and the first time I saw him I officially made him my little family’s mascot.

I am not sure of his origins.  I think my daughter brought him home from a yard sale.  The strand of yarn hair thrown back off of his forehead suggest he had felt the breeze of plenty of bad homes, but once I saw him I knew he had found his final resting place.

My daughter knew I coveted that stuffed animal.  When I would disappear on a vacation I would shove him in my suitcase then take snap shots of him.  The she would look through the pictures and laugh whenever Worried Duck showed up. 

But now he is all mine.

The weird stitching beside his eyes suggests he is squinting.  The way he puckers his beak looks like he eat a sour apple.  Oh yes Worried Duck, with knickers like David Copperfield, now you are all mine.

Take that worried look off your face.  It won’t be that bad.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Phone Call From the Dead

     A small breeze rattled the cellophane around wrapped flowers.  My wife and I walked among the generations of the dead as the growls of feral cats echoed off the rows of tightly packed mausoleums.  We were halfway through the Poblenou cemetery and there wasn’t another living soul around which was made evident by the lonesome sound of my boots on the concrete.

This cemetery was set up in 1775 and some of the mausoleum markers were as withered as the memories of those that had passed.  As soon as I walked into the gates I noticed the gaps between the rich dead and the poor.  I couldn’t tell if the sun was playing tricks on my eyes or if the darkness creeping in was caused by the clouds.

I sat on a ladder people used to reach their family crept and rolled a cigarette.  From a pane of glass protecting a slab of marble I could see my own ashen reflection and the reminder of what would become of me one day.

As I meandered into an alcove I stopped to admire small trinkets people had lovingly placed onto the lips of their family crypts and read the names etched into the side of the door frames.  Picture after picture of strangers flipped by like an antique photo album, and as I stood admiring one of the sculptures I noticed what the cats were fighting about; a freshly killed pigeon.

We walked back to a older part of the cemetery were wealthier patrons bought themselves a little more elbow room and the statue dedicated to those who died of yellow fever was sculpted in such detail Goth girls would have sold a few spare eggs to buy a replica.  We had already been wondering around for hours, and I thought we were almost finished, but then we reached the back of the graveyard full of huge family crypts bigger than New York apartments.

I  was impressed.  I had already lost my wife as what drew our attentions turned us different ways through the labyrinth.  Then every corner I walked around scared the pigeons out of their roosts. Many of the crypts had beautiful stained glass windows, and as I peered into the doors through the layers of dirt I could see the antique furniture, organs, and alters sealed in the walls like rooms in a house long abandoned.


My mind was elsewhere when Kaycie walked up.  I hadn’t heard a human voice in a few hours when she called out my name.  I jumped a little then adjusted my hat.  She cupped something in her hands like a baby bird and her eyes were all wide.

“Look what I found.” She said.

She opened up her hands to reveal a beat up cell phone.  It was old.  Flecks of chrome paint were missing from the white plastic body like meat chunks tore off of a zombie.

“Don’t touch that.  It probably has pigeon shit on it.”  I said.

“No look.  I found it on the edge of that crypt over there.  It still has power.  In fact it’s fully charged.

I looked around to see if someone had snuck up on us.  We had been rambling through this graveyard for over four hours and had yet to see a single soul.  Kaycie handed the phone to me and I flipped the old Nokia in my hand.  Then it rang.

I almost dropped it.  I wasn’t sure what to do.  I hit the end button on the phone and a second later it rang again.  I am not easy to scare, but even I am not answering a phone call from the dead.