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I had a terrible toothache. It felt like my tooth was rotting out. I went to the dentist and he said, "Your tooth is rotting out."
He shot me full of juice. He gripped the tooth with his pliers and put his foot up on the armrest. I could feel the pull but no pain. Then: POP!
He held it out to me. It was all black and green. Bloody flesh hung like ropes from it.
"Do you want it?" he joked.
"Yes," I said. "I'm going to take it home, and I'm going to make something of it."
I was walking on Bloor Street, waiting for a pizza. A woman said, "Excuse me, could you do me a favour?"
"What is it?"
"Can I give you my phone and can you ask whoever answers for George?"
"Why would I do that?"
"His father doesn't like me."
She did look a bit ragged. "Okay."
She dialed and handed me her phone. "I never used one of these before," I said.
"Hello, could I speak to George?"
Pause. I gave the woman her phone. She walked away down the street, not even thanking me. Ragged.
I was walking along King Street and I stopped at a red light. Several people were around. I heard a man come walking up, asking people a question. I looked. He was dressed dandyish, and he had an umbrella even though it was a nice clear day. He looked at me and said, "Excuse me, but do you know where there's a construction site around here?"
I pointed back the way I'd come. "They're digging up the sidewalk over there."
He shook his umbrella enthusiastically. "Ah! Perfect! Perfect! Thank you!" He turned and hurried away.
I thought of something witty while I was smoking in the smoking room. I went back to the library and said to Jackie, "Elliott Leyton divides multiple killers into two categories: serial murderers and mass murderers. Hussein was both. He murdered lot of people, and he did it several times."
Jackie took off her glasses and said, "I had a class with Leyton at Memorial University. It was a seminar. He said that Hussein was neither a serial nor a mass murderer."
I looked at her for a moment without speaking. Then I said, "I like my joke better."
Well, this is quite amazing. I've received an invitation to something. I'm quite stunned. I don't quite know what to say. When I was young I used to get invited places. Maybe because I'm not too good at returning invitations--my place is such a sty--the invitations trickled off to nothing. Really, I haven't been invited to anything in quite a long time. Mmm, and I hardly even
the people... but I think they're nice. I can't pass it up. It's such a special event. I mean, how often does a pig get invited to a luau?
He inscribed a square withing a circle and another circle within that square and he held his breath to see if he could fall asleep that way and he tried to count all the voices singing in his head like he was trying to make a census of an imaginary flock of birds and he wondered why birth comes before death and he tried to find a good witty anagram for "Karel Capek" and he imagined the ceiling was the floor and he wondered how many people were loudly laughing at that very moment and he got a coffee.
My brother sent me a Christmas parcel from another country. It arrived C.O.D. because it had been stopped and taxed at the border. Naturally I paid, but should I ask him to reimburse me?
You certainly should not ask for anything. Your brother was probably not aware that having a package stopped was even a possibility. Simply keep quiet about it from now on, don't tell a single soul, and remember that good deeds done in secret are the best deeds of all.
Gee, Abby, thanks for the ad-
This isn't a conversation!
Jane and Joan were walking around, carrying their boulders. Jane managed to look up the slope.
"Look, Joan, isn't that your old friend Margaret up there? In the medium grey?"
Joan managed to look. "Yes," she sniffed. "Even with her eyes sewn shut, I still recognize her."
"You sound indifferent."
Joan said, "When we were 'friends,' she would never stop wanting my position, my man, my beauty."
"I never knew that, and I thought I knew everything."
"We haven't spoken since we arrived here, and we never shall. Let's just say that these days we travel in different circles."
When I was five my family and I went to Disneyland. I bought a Disney LP. The record was the story of a boy who travels to the west, to California. As we travelled east, to Ontario, I read the sleeve over and over.
Months later, I was lying under the dining room table, writing another adventure for this boy. Mine involved robbers. I filled eleven pages. My first creative writing.
Some time later, my sister sat on the record and broke it in three. There was no way to mend it.
I've been embellishing ever since, you see.
LIST OF THINGS I WOULDN'T DO FOR A GIRL IN A CALICO DRESS AND SENSIBLE SHOES
1. Drink all the water in the Dead Sea.
2. Pull my head inside out.
3. Murder everything in the universe save for the girl in the calico dress and the sensible shoes.
4. Accidentally translate the Aeneid into Swahili.
5. By force of will mutate into an old goat.
6. Buy a subscription to The Socialist Worker.
7. Stop making lists like this.
8. Stop eating and breathing and so on.
9. Order her to never wear calico dresses and sensible shoes.
I'm working on what Fr. Bernard Lonergan S.J. was talking about when he argued that absolute subjectivity is the purest objectivity of all.
I wonder how many girls in Toronto are getting fucked for the first time today.
On a March Sunday morning when I was fifteen I left the house to go to my school to work on a play's set. To let the dog in and myself out simultaneously I used the back door. A woman was clawing in the shed.
"Excuse me," I said.
She turned. She was shivering, glassy-eyed, up-all-night. "I was looking for a place to sleep."
"Why don't you go home?"
"I don't know where I am."
We walked to the bus stop. I told her how to get home. I gave her bus fare.
Did I ever see her again?
Little puppy, little puppy,
Look at you in that wet coat.
You're begging for pop rocks.
Have some rocks, little puppy.
She doesn't care one bit, not one,
About the chemical explosions in her.
I've a secret, little puppy, little puppy.
Guess what it is? Won't laugh if you're wrong.
Give up? I thought you would. A long time ago,
I was you. I was a little puppy too, I used to be you.
It's extraordinary, I know; sometimes, I think I've been lied to;
But take a look, little puppy, at this little puppy, play dead, play dead.
I came out of the Tim Horton's, lit a cigarette, and stood at the corner, waiting for the light to change. I heard someone fast approaching, talking on a cell phone. "I don't care, he has to do it." He hit against me as he passed me, and he crossed against the light without even looking, without even breaking his stride. He just kept right on talking to whoever it was. "Have you called L.A. yet?" And he had earrings, too. Hoop earrings.
Jesus, I can't even buy a simple bag of potato chips without feeling nervous and guilty.
When my father was dying, I spend a lot of time in the hospital waiting room. After some afternoons spent there, I noticed there was this one guy who seemed to be there all the time, always reading. Whenever I went, there he'd be, reading.
Finally, after my father died, when grief was clouding my judgement, I had the nerve to approach him.
I waited for him to look up.
-Who are you here for?
-So, why are you always here?
-Everybody's so silent and polite. They won't ever bother you. It's much quieter than a library.
Funny thing from Russell Smith today. If only I could remember what it was.... I mean, I read the column a whole month ago, you see? In any case, the argument I made what that the new way of choosing the word of the year, i.e. by free voting, is a perfect example of thuthiness in action. Then I made some comment about doxology. Too bad I can't quite remember it. It was a tight little argument, too.
You see, I like to put something topical in every once in a while. It ties me to chronology.
Did I just see what I thought I just saw? Had the cleanliness fad really gone so far? Did I just go into the 4th floor washroom and see a man standing at the urinal, and did I see in his hands paper towels that peeped out from his hip-sides? Am I right, or am I wrong in figuring that
he was holding his penis with paper towels?
Did he appear that unclean? Was he caked down there with filth, with shit perhaps, or is this the newest urban fad?
And what did he do with the towels afterwards?
A middle manager goes into a senior manager's office and closes the door.
-Boss, we've got a problem.
-The temp we hired three years ago.
-Oh yes, Carruthers. What of him?
-He's raped Jones.
-The temp we hired four years ago.
-Oh yes, Jones. So, what's the problem?
-Rape is against company policy.
-I looked it up. Policy 188.8.131.52.
-Well, that settles it. Consider him fired.
-But I'm short-staffed.
-Let's look at the schedule. Yes, I see.
-I'm short til June.
-I'll fire him in June.
-Keep up the good work!
I really think you're worrying about nothing. It's not a rooming house, it's just a place six people live in, we share the kitchen, everything works out pretty good, we keep an eye out, you see? Not very often, we, I usually just cook for myself. A lot of macaroni, stuff like that. That was two blocks away, the flames didn't even come close. Three gutted, four are salvageable. That wasn't here either, that was next door. Yes, I agree, ma, murder-suicide isn't nice. Gotta go, sorry, I think Jimmy and Carol have pulled out the knives again. Bye.
When I moved last, from Dovercourt to Havelock, I also moved some of the things I hadn't unpacked when I moved from Jarvis to Dovercourt. Among it all was a cedar cigar box I'd been given by a Jamaican friend in fifth grade. Inside the box I found a bundle of papers--poems I'd written in high school--and there were some silver dollars, my great-grandfather's pen, and some other minor stuff I haven't the space to mention here.
Anyway, at the bottom of the box were written the words: YOU MISS ME.
I don't remember who wrote them.
Dear Imam Landers,
I have a strong impulse to cut off the heads of infidels. It's almost irresistible. What should I do?
You should first understand that you are not alone with your urges. I receive a good number of letters such as yours, Uncertain, every week. Some I write to personally, telling them to not consider themselves 'weird,' and to simply, go for it! In other cases, such as yours, in which I sense distress, I recommend mosque counselors. A thankfully small number of letters are sent by cranks and baiters. Some people are sick!
I regret to inform you over there that we must discontinue our program. You see, in our town, we see through walls, but we can't see through windows. We have discovered that you, strangely, see through windows, but cannot see through walls. (At first, we didn't believe such a thing was possible.)
The girl you sent us kept her eyes closed to prevent madness; the boy we sent you killed himself two weeks after his return to our land. Cross-perceptual billeting is no doubt enriching; however, certain student exchange programs do not work. There shall be no further contact.
Late at night I'm walking home from work, and I'm on King Street, in the club district, and I'm between Spadina and Portland, and I see this big guy with a pissed expression walking straight at me.
Just a matter of a swerve,
I think, and I swerve, but he keeps coming at me, coming at me. I finally swerve left, and our right shoulders slam against each other. I'm a bit stunned, but then
Hey man, if you wanna date me, if you wanna fuck me, c'mon, have the guts to ask! I'll turn you down, but Christ!
Mike jumped, or felt like he'd jumped.
He was in bed. He could still hear the door and its heavy slam.
It had been a dream door. A bit of dream sound.
Mike was scared. What was so scary? He rifled through the doors of his life like a pack of playing cards.
One of the doors was the slamming door. The door could be a very old door, battered around the edges. But not the flimsy plywood door he first suspected; that door was too light.
It must have been ...
Two cell phones are walking down the street.
-So, Lou, how's the Christmas shopping going?
-Not bad, not bad at all. Got a mouse lemur for the missus, and an albino chipmunk for my brother. How about you?
Bob stops. Lou stops. Bob says,
-I got something for you. I wanna give it to you now. Cover your eyes.
Lou covers. Bob lifts a newborn human out of a bag.
Lou uncovers and shrieks. He grabs the newborn and throws it as far as he can. Bob laughs,
-A gag gift!
-You're so clever.
Poets of Hamilton, musicians of Whitby, writers of Keswick, I salute you!
From Toronto, City Of No Talent! to those who are true artists!
I speak from experience,
I have seen your exhibitions of paintings,
I have spun on the beats of your sound,
I have read there the best of all!
Stay where you are, do not come here.
You'll get lost in the cheap tinsel and distractions and ease, ease, ease,
Your talent will plummet as the bullshit arises.
Stay away from this Hell!
Bear your young!
(Don't tell anyone I told you!)
Firstly, let's draw an outline of a house.
Secondly, let's draw on the house a door and two windows.
Thirdly, let's draw a chimbly.
Fourthly, let's make some curls of smoke coming from it.
Fifthly, let's tick in some grass in front, and a tree to one side.
Sixthly, let's put a knob on the door, a brass knob.
Seventhly, let's draw some open curtains in the windows.
Eighthly, let's square off a flowerbox beneath the lower window.
Ninthly, let's draw a woman with her arms on the sill of that window.
Tenthly, give her an expression of love.
Quarter to midnight I get on the streetcar.
Sit beside a small Asian Chinese woman.
Open a book.
She jumps. "Dundas? Dundas station? Subway?"
There are three 'Dundas' stations. "Which one?" I don't understand her. "You'd best ask the driver."
Later, she seems to be falling asleep. Then she leaps again, shoves me out of the way, gets off, no connections in sight. Why?
A wet noise behind me.
Guy behind her had puked all over the place.
"Oh my God!"
He gets out. "Sorry."
Mathematically, it had to happen some time.
Poor unlucky woman.
This is it. What will be the drama? How will it end? After years, there's got to be some drama. I brace myself for it. I can see through walls, I can see the bric-a-brac, I can see the machines. I have no plans for The End. Time is growing short. Should be here soon. Soon, soon, soon. Not much time for words. What will be the declaration, what will be the reclamation? How will it end? Approaching. Approaching. There. And the last words heard are, "I have to clean off my desk. If you need me, call me."
I had a twin brother who was evil. As much as I was good, he was evil. As much as I told the truth, he lied. Nevertheless, we got along well. We would argue endlessly over who mom liked best. We would play the usual tricks on our teachers. Sometimes we would wake up unsure of who was who. On our eighteenth birthday we decided we had to part. But how? Of course: a fight to the death. I got his head under my arm and I snapped his neck. I buried him out back. You know the rest.
So haben wir uns wohl erprobt,
Vergnügt, wenn der Patron es lobt.
Nur mit zwei Schiffen ging es fort,
Mit zwanzig sind wir nun im Port.
Was große Dinge wir getan,
Das sieht man unsrer Ladung an.
Das freie Meer befreit den Geist,
Wer weiß da, was Besinnen heißt!
Da fördert nur ein rascher Griff,
Man fängt den Fisch, man fängt ein Schiff,
Und ist man erst der Herr zu drei,
Dann hakelt man das vierte bei;
Da geht es denn dem fünften schlecht,
Man hat Gewalt, so hat man Recht.
Man fragt ums
, und nicht ums
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