Friday, May 11, 2007

Chapter Twenty-Two: Edgy

"Here is something new I wrote, something edgy," said the reader of the week, Thomas Morlitary. Todd felt his stomach tense. Edgy, here at the Lit Snob. There were sure to be complaints come tomorrow.

The cherub shown in the icy rain. Wet drops ran down his wings, his child’s face, across his blank eyes. He seemed to cry, falling into the pool of blood at his feet.

The wipers thwap-thwapped on there 180 trip across the windshield. Carl switched them to high and jammed at the stuck defroster button, cursing. On call late nights; this was definitely not working for him. His sheets, tossed aside as he reached for the pager, remained on the floor. The black shirt was wrinkled. Who had the energy to call in something at two a.m?

The yard of the Victorian was black. The crows lay in the muddied earth. There were no marks, but it was obvious they were dead. Did you bring a dead crow, dozens of dead crows to a coroner or a vet? Carl rubbed rain water from his forehead, gave his eyes the luxury of a brief moment shut, wished for the millionth time his life was something else.

Dating the D.A. was definitely not a good idea. It had been spring and he was sick on love, or of love, or something. Figured, if nothing else, the D.A. would be good in bed. Didn’t count on these moments of awkwardness the would follow. Nighttime in the car to the thwap-thwap of the wipers from the scene of the crime.

Bagged a bird, found a body. Asian. Male. Five ten. One hundred and seventy three pounds. John Doe, the toe tag said. We are all equal in death. The coroner said it looked to be a poisoning. He’d know more in the morning. The birds: no explanation. “I think we all need some sleep,” he said.

Carl didn’t call the D.A., and the D.A. didn’t expect him to. It had been a summer fling. Carl having figured he’d do his boss because he wasn’t supposed to. And now, a cell phone in the car. The ring-ring of the phone. The wiper thwap-thwapped. The D.A.’s voice was husky with sleep; just the way he remembered. Later, sleep would be a long time coming.

“Cyanide,” the coroner said. “Severe cyanide poisoning may be characterized by gasping for breath and loss of consciousness. After loss of consciousness, breathing may be weak or absent. Cardiac arrest and death may result ,” the coroner said, methodically of a man who was once someone’s son. Still was, in a way. Dead man, dead birds. Diagnosis: cyanide.

Friday night, so he went to a bar. Pick up somebody. Anybody who wasn’t the D.A. Didn’t remind him of the D.A. Had nothing to do with crime prevention. There was a not quite boy with dark, spiky hair in the back corner. Carl turned away.

In John Doe’s room: fifteen bird cages, a bottle of cyanide. No evidence. They wanted to rule it a suicide. How does a suicide get from his bedroom to his backyard?

That summer, the D.A. had held his hand at the beach. Carl feeling relatively post-modern, like this was going to change the world, his relationship with this other man. But the Atlantic washed up jellyfish. It should have been an omen.

The case was to go unsolved because there were no good leads. Ritual murder? Insane suicide? It was anyone’s guess. Carl couldn’t help but feel the loser.

It seemed a good time to become nihilistic. Evil could be touched. Seen at midnight on the autopsy table. People went out and murdered, plundered, and raped. Genocide was once a near reality. The world is always ending. Ebola and AIDS were sweeping the globe. The Americans threatened war. China was stuck in the middle. Evil could be viewed incarnate. A college held an exhibit of Hitler’s art. Hope and joy were an illusion. Webster could never really define love, and that was a sign that optimism was for the delusional.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Chapter Twenty-One: Quincy's Log Cabin


Quincy Renard was part English, part French. He hated one of his halves, and loved the other. He just couldn't decide which was which. For as long as he could remember, Quincy loved to build things - loved arts and crafts. Each day during school, Quincy sat in panicked-anticipation for art class, in which he would put all sorts of markers and paints to use in order to create his "masterpieces." However, after he submitted one of his projects for a contest, Quincy had to leave school. They all said he was "sick," but he didn't feel any different - certianly not as bad as he felt when he had the flu that one time. Quincy lived most of his life in Canada, a place he considered "quiet, nice, and pathetic." He didn't like Mr. Robertson from down the street because he "smelled like blood and urine." He didn't like Mrs. Parson from the next block over because she "had a fucked-up nose." Eventually, Quincy decided to move away from Canada, from his family and friends (Quincy didn't actually have family and friends). Quincy ultimately decided on upstate New York - a small, rural town where the people couldn't bother him with their smells and looks. However, there weren't any houses to be purchased in the area, only land. So Quincy purchased himself some land. It was a quiet piece of meadow near the woods. It was perfect. Once he had purchased himself some land, Quincy got to work on building his house. He had always wanted a cabin before and so this is what he opted for. Quincy was so happy that everyone in the area was so nice in helping him build his cabin. Mr. Morris lent a hand, and Mrs. Anderson chipped in, and Mr. and Mrs. Johnson gave it their all. After three long months, Quincy's cabin was finished. He moved in on a beautiful Saturday morning, and got himself right at home. He loved his cabin - it was so full of life. Everywhere he looked, the parts were there - smelling like blood and urine. Mr. Morris' arms and legs made up the front door jam. Mrs. Anderson's torso was part of his mantle. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson made a great addition to the bedroom set. As Quincy reclined in his armchair, made entirely out of his father, he smiled and inhaled deeply on his pipe, made from his little brother's penis. He realized that upstate New York wasn't at all different from Canada. It was home. Home sweet home.


Monday, May 7, 2007

Chapter Twenty: The Lit Snub

"Today we have a very special guest for you all," Todd said as eight-year-old Daniel Garabedian strode to the front of the room. "With permission from his mother, Daniel is going to read today's story, which he wrote himself."

"Thank you, Todd," Daniel said politely. "My story is called The Ex-Kangaroo."


Okay, so one time, there was a kangaroo in Australia. That's where kangaroos live. So he was living in the Outback with his family. But when he grew up, he didn't want to live in Australia anymore. And he didn't want to be a kangaroo.

Okay, so he went to Africa and tried to be a hippopotamus, but they didn't like him being a hippopotamus. He went to the watering hole and joined the other hippos in the water. But the other hippos said they were there first, and he didn't belong there with them. Even though the hippos had pushed out the zebras from the same watering hole no too long ago.

They wanted to build a wall made of mud and sticks to keep the ex-kangaroo out, but the other animals said that wasn't nice. The lion, king of Africa, also wanted to keep the ex-kangaroo out. He felt threatened by the ex-kangaroo. He thought the other animals might think his hopping was cooler than the lion's roar and mane.

There was a big fight between all the animals over whether the ex-kangaroo should be allowed to live with the hippos.

"He wants to become a hippo," some said. "He wants to join them, not take away the watering hole all for himself."

While others said, "No, soon more ex-kangaroos will come, and they will take over the Serengeti. We have to protect what's our. Build the wall!"

The ex-kangaroo was sad, but he didn't want to go home. There was nothing to eat in the Outback. Africa had so much more food. He knew he could make friends, he just had to show them he could be trusted.

He tried bringing the hippos food, taking no food for himself. The hippos just ate it all and ignored him. He tried helping the hippos, doing all the tough work, while they just watched, but they never said thank you.

Finally, he gave up.

"What do you want from me? I just want to live here and be happy."

"Find your own watering hole!" the hippos said.

So the ex-kangaroo left the watering hole and ventured out to find another place to live. Eventually he found a watering hole on the other side of the big hill with other animals, some ex-kangaroos, an ex-dingo, an ex-panda, even a few former parrots.

This watering hole was in a darker, more dangerous part of the serengeti. There were hyenas all around, waiting to catch an animal who let his guard down. There was less water, and it was murkier.

The ex-kangaroo was happy he found a home. These animals welcomed him, the the ex-kangaroos, ex-dingos, ex-pandas and former parrots often fought amongst themselves.

He wondered a lot if he would ever get to live with the hippos in that nice watering hole on the other side of the big hill.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Chapter Nineteen: Teen

Todd has wishes. One wish was to have a wonderful reader to wow the Lit Snob crowd every week. This week, Todd feared, his wishes would not be granted.

"Tonight," Todd announced, "we have a new talent with us. Lily Markland has come to read her piece recently published in the high school literature journal Euterpe. Please give a warm welcome to Lily." Todd breathed in heavily and waited for her to begin.


and in the night, the white broken lines of the road whiz past them in a continuous way. the interior of the car is illuminated in indigo dashboard light and the occasional lamp that flickers by on the never ending trip.

the first night:
on the way west they stop at the first of near a million highway gas stations. she elects to leave the dark microcosm of their ’93 toyota in favor of a relieved bladder. the white lights of the mobile are blinding. her pupils dilate, retract to pinpoints in record timing. it is a little past twelve am and there is an old woman at the register. the restroom is just clean enough, white tile, and white stalls. she cranks a tampon from the old paint chipping metal machine. when she doesn’t buy anything the old woman at the counter is not surprised. customers electing to eat their own week old granola bars and other road trip finery.

back in the car the ac is purring with a sub-artic feel. she curls up in the back seat.

the second night:
there was a giant elephant with pink room insides in a small new jersey town. roadside attractions were back in style with the revival of the notion of america. yesterday npr had done a segment about people who live in caravans. nomads, going as the dark highways took them, never settling down to lead the ‘normal’ life.

she imagined that they were nomads in the black toyota, changing the face of america as they passed graceland and national parks with a ‘whoosh!’.

the third day:
food for the day had consisted of two chocolate covered boxed doughnuts, and she was starting to feel a little ill. dany in the drivers seat had elected for a massive all day drive without the comforts of food or facilities. the shoulder made a good toilet, unaffected by the more natural side of things. a modern day hippy without the political convictions of the day.

sean had been complaining the day away for lack of soda cans and green beans. tossing black rooted gold strands from his eyes and commenting again on the need for pepsi in a civilized america.

now, sean sat in the back seat, carefully stroking her hair as her head rested on his chest, occasionally ducking to brush his lips up against the mocha strands.

the fourth day:
despite her lack of feeling regarding what she personally called ‘the elvis matter’ they had toured graceland. it was a southern style mansion with the tacky press denoted ‘jungle room’, large living rooms, and bedrooms. elvis always had peanut butter in his fridge, the guide had informed them. and ice cream. a dressed up home to impress upon ma and pa the fact that you really have made it. there had been little mention of elvis being anything other than dead. ufo’s and extra-terrestrials
were left out of it, and for that she was glad.

the fourth night:
she craves a shower the way pregnant woman need chocolate, and insistes that since dany had gotten his way about the dearly departed elvis, she would have her way about the best western.

water felt like something divine. sean pontificated on the quality of pepsi versus coke, until she pointed out that over 90% of the ingredients were the same and that his desire for the former of the two was tied into advertising and britney spears, at which time sean fell silent.

dany and sean argued over who got the second bed. despite his high spirits during there long drive, dany desired a good bed as much as any of them, but sean won out in the end with some argument where he quoted milton and the bible in the same sentence whist invoking satan be there need. dany consented to the brilliance of such a run on and thus a night of exile from all things comfortable.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Chapter Eighteen: History's Greatest Monster


Bill's a fuckin' drunk bum. It wasn't always like that, though.

-Stop! This isn't about some wife, kids, picket-fence bullplop. This is Bill. And before that fateful day in 1987, Bill was the smartest man on the planet. Pulitzer? Nope, smarter than that. Nobel? Nope, wrong again, dummy. Bill soared above them all. He was Hawking without the fancy chair and spousal abuse. But even with all of his superfly ESP, he couldn't see this one coming. It was C-SPAN. Larry King, or whoever came before Larry King. Was there anybody there before Larry King? Stop! That's not important. So Bill's on the Larry King thing, and he's supposed to be talking about health care, or the space program, or fashion, or some shit. But all of a sudden, he blurts it out. That's right - it.

"Jimmy Carter is a robot."

Larry King actually laughs at him. It's this low laugh - it sounds like television static mixed with a girraffe going through a wood-chipper. But Bill doesn't think it's funny. He serious - dead serious. He strangles Larry King before the test pattern goes into panic mode and everybody's thinking technical difficulties. But Bill's the only difficulty. Now C-Span needs a new host.

Bill lost everything after the Carter incident - his Carter incident. But, Oh, Larry King came back, the very next day. And Jimmy Carter won't be alive by 2014, his batteries don't have that much charge.

Fuck. This story's not that great, is it? Too bad.


Monday, April 30, 2007

Chapter Seventeen: On a Plain

Edwin Peters entered the Lit Snob reading room and sat down in front of everyone.

"Mr. Peters will be reading from his latest book," Todd said. "A tale of a troubled man who is struggling to find something in his life, but doesn't know what yet. Mr. Peters, whenever you're ready."


He was flying to San Francisco.

He hated planes. He never liked flying for his business' conferences. But he was happy to be where he was. Well, maybe happy. Definitely nervous - apprehensive.

He didn't bring much. One small suitcase with some clothes, deoderant, and his three-bladed razor. For the first time ever, he didn't have anything to check. He didn't even bring his laptop with him.

He checked his cell phone for the time, then checked again for messages. None. It was as if he quit his job, left his family and bolted for tahiti to start over. But he was just flying to San Francisco. He'd been there before a hundred times. For business.

He curses himself for now knowing who else was in that city during all one hundred of those visits. His son. His only son was now waiting for him at the airport in San Francisco. He'd been married before but divorced. He never knew his first wife was pregnant. She'd never told him. Then he gets an email from someone named Daniel Peters - the name of his brother, who died years ago.

Confused, he opened hit to find the message of a man desperately trying to find his father, taking one last long shot after finding the right name on internet.

After a few exchanged emails. A plane was flying to San Francisco carrying the father of Daniel Peters. It was definitely his son. He never had children with his second wife, they never wanted any. But now he's a father.

His life had hit a plateau. He had set himself up so that he couldn't fall from where he was, but had no way of climbing any higher. He was happy, but could've been happier. He was on a plain with no ups or downs in sight.

Until that email.

Now he's leaving that plain, as he enters the airport in San Francisco. He looks around anxiously, and sees a man in his late 20s who looks just like him. In one of Daniel Peters' arms is his wife, or girlfriend, he wasn't sure.

In the other arm was a boy about six or seven, who looks just like him.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Chapter Sixteen: Old Fashion Story Time

Todd was befuddled.

"You're going to read a children's story?" he asked.

"Yes," answered this week's reader, Traci. She thought that Todd's befuddlement was charming. She also thought his over annunciation of the previous question was kind of cute. She wondered what Todd was doing after the reading and decided not to ask. Her lack of asking was directly proportional to the lack of sex she was having. That and the fact that she was a children's writer -- all the men she met, who were often also charming, were also married.

"Okay," said Todd.

Traci smiled.

"Well, here is the moment of truth."


It’s past my bedtime, but I’m still up. It’s Saturday, and Saturdays I get to look at the stars with Dad.

After Dad puts the last dish away, he looks over to me and says, “Let’s get ready, Nova,” and we hurry upstairs to get our coats. I pull my hat with funny flaps over my ears, because Dad says it’s going to be cold. Dad pulls on sweaters and buttons my coat, because I can’t with my mittens on.

“You get the magazine and I’ll get the scope,” he says, so I hurry to find this month’s star chart.

Dad and I always set up on the flat roof over the porch even though Mom always says to Dad that I am going to fall off.

“If she can identify the stars, she can recognize the end to a roof,” Dad replies.

Mom shakes her head, but she also smiles and kisses Dad on the cheek, saying, “Take care of our Little Star,”

It’s cold and breezy on the roof because it is so exposed. Dad sets up the telescope, and I flip through the star charts and magazine clippings we collect about space.

“Orion is high in the sky tonight,” Dad says. He points to a row of three stars, “See, Little Star, that’s Orion’s belt, and see further up, his arms and bow.”

I squint up at Orion, and then look higher.

“Is that square one with the tail the Big Dipper?” I ask.

“Sure is, and look over there,” Dad points, “the Little Dipper.”

I look over and smile. The Little Dipper is one of my favorites because it is
small like me. All the rest of the stars are in giant shapes that remind me too much of grown ups.

I look down at my magazine clippings to see if there is anything special happening this month. Dad looks over my shoulder.

“Hey, Nova, it says here that a star in Cassiopeia is going to go super nova.”

I smile, “Like me.”

“Nova, like you. It says it should go in several thousand years! Well that’s a long time. That light from the star will take a long time to come here.”

“Because space is really big.” I am proud to know the answer.

“Really, really big, Little Nova Star. Do you know how big space is?”

I scrunch up my head because I am thinking so hard. “Bigger than Earth and the moon, even the solar system?”

“Much, much bigger,” Dad says. “Space is so big that it contains lots and lots of systems with planets and stars.”

I look up, amazed.

“Dad, are there people on those planets looking up at us?”

“I don’t know, Little Star, but space is big. If it were just us that would be a whole lot of space no one was using. Maybe, someday, you’ll see space.”

I look up at the sky and think, “Someday we’re going to travel to Orion,” I say.

“Someday, Star. It’s good to dream.”

Dad and I dream of a giant spaceship with me at the wheel heading out into space. I dream of nebulae and of baby stars and colors in all directions. Dad looks up at the sky, but he says that he dreams of Mom. I think of Mom in a dress of stars with a giant moon crown. If Dad and I ruled the sky, no one would ever cry again, and my best friend, Sal, would have the puppy he’s always wanted.

“Dad, if I ruled the sky, Mom would have a dress of stars, and nobody would ever cry again,” I say.

Dad laughs and says, “Such an unselfish wish.”

I see a light over the tall pine where I like to pretend I’m an insect with Sal. A star shoots across space.

“Hey, look at that one.”

Dad looks up.

“Your first shooting star, Nova,” he says. “Let’s go tell your mother.”