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Right now, it's just you and me, kid. I'm the silent voice inside your skull. And we're alone now. You have to evaluate what I say for yourself. You can't turn to your empty-headed friends for reassurance. They're away, doing whatever they do when you're not around. No one else showed up. Just the two of us. You can bounce me out of your mind, but you're running out of time for that. So perhaps you'd rather just listen. There're no pure truths or fictions, just various blends of the two. A pure strain of either would drive you insane.
Most of America wasn't particularly game to enter World War I, or "the war to end all wars," as was its erstwhile designation. So Woodrow Wilson and friends pumped them up. Instead of temporarily scaring them into compliance, they gathered them into "loyalty leagues" and got them juiced. Despising the krauts was roundly encouraged. One American with German blood was lynched for trying to join the goddamn navy. Sauerkraut was rechristened LIBERTY CABBAGE. The military industrial complex sputtered to life. "Americans don't have much use for history, but we love our anniversaries." Believe that. And we love some team sports.
Eva lingered passively as the houselights went up, as if waiting for some sort of cue. All the more faithful now that its arrival was in doubt. BELIEVING harder than she ever KNEW anything. Sucking the last few drops of her wasted drink off the ice cubes from the bottom of the glass. Swell gal, truth be told. Lacked the initiative to flex her self-confidence. Out of touch with her biological mandates. What the mystics would call an "atheist." Lazy. Believed the bullshit out of habit. Had learned to savor them apples. Craved a dash of panache. Or gleaning meaning.
For all the obvious reasons: Baxter has phased out all forms of transportation save the favored mass commute: The Crystal Cannonball, the city's crosstown rollercoaster. This state-of-the-art thrill ride pulls to a stop near you every 20 minutes. Cleanup detail sometimes causes delays, but what are you gonna do? Scream your way to your 8 hour soulsuck. Coffee consumption in Baxter has leveled off, as the Crystal Cannonball gets the ol' inner war flaming much more dramatically. Aside from the well-received launch of the 24-hour fireworks channel, it's the loudest excitement in town. A season pass keeps you barreling daily.
I drank enough metallic-tasting tap water to piss out all my thoughts. All my fossilized emotions. All the psychic shit. All of it. Pissed it into a bottle. Pissed out orange and red and yellow and finally clear. Piss had flakes of real gold in it. Started selling my bottles of piss. Hand Crayola'd each label. Sold out. People dove straight to the bottom of my bottles of piss. I had no more soul left to piss out. Or piss away. I already pissed out it all. Now it's gone. Everything I ever did. Everyone I ever knew. Drained away.
Li'l Andrea squeezed her eyelids shut. Balled her fists. Slowed her breath. And resolved to resurface only when every trace of artifice disappeared. Or dissolved into the ether. At least, until people started speaking their true minds. Abolished the bullshit mind games until the urge to perpetuate them vanished, too. She waited. And SCREAMED. And waited. Waited for troo honesty and humility not acrid envy and simpering asskissing. She waited. And SCREAMED. And continued to wait. Would never, she resolved, be deterred. Pulled in a resolute breath. And prepared to wait out the bleakness for as long as necessary. Waited.
The last few hours of night went by slowly, like a black and white film on a broken projector. As the sun peeped over the horizon, we pulled into a town called Singapore. Only thing open was a 24-hour grocery store. Old man with a fire-engine red face and a brown beard (like it'd gone gray years ago but he still used it to wipe the coffee off his chin) leafed through the low rider magazines. Besides him, and a pair of murmuring graveyard employees, we were on our own. Got nutty bars and split. Morning sun melted our earwax.
Navigating the modern urban environment can be difficult for the flustered pedestrian. More difficult than it needs to be. For the fellow who behaves as though he's exploring a strange new world. KEEP MOVING. ACT LIKE YOU BELONG THERE. For the man who stops to consult printed matter. KEEP MOVING. WHILE PART OF FOOT TRAFFIC FLOW, KEEP MOVING. For the fellow who is truly, hopelessly lost. KEEP MOVING. STEP TO THE RIGHT-HAND SIDE IF YOU MUST. WHEN RETURNING, START MOVING. For the man who simply cannot resist idle chitchat. KEEP MOVING. FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT'S GOOD, KEEP MOVING.
Yves first tried to snuff himself at 14. Didn't take. Now, Yves sits up in a bordello Murphy, discharging an orange water pistol at the ceiling, halfway glad he made it. Glad he didn't successfully pass on all the blown loads and bite marks on his neck and curly pubic hairs stuck between his teeth. Glad he survived to sample so much. But wonders what USE there was for any of it. Wondered if the Life Examined only leads to self-loathing, or what else. Breathes in the quim and lets it caress the linings of his lungs. Feels the feeling.
Fucking microscopic span of attention. No fucking follow-through. Bring all these characters to life but can't lead them anywhere. Just drop them in vacuums and desert them there, living the same shitty paragraph in perpetuity. Goddamn deadbeat fiction scribbler. Don't you feel any remorse for these people you've created? I know you sure as shit don't get any cards on Father's Day. Didn't put them through school. Didn't give any of them a chance. Can't even meditate on what they might've been without fucking up their names. We'll see if you ever prove anything. We'll see what you can do.
The Indian cabbie could tell I was from out of town. My slow, subliminally twangy monotone gave me away. And the fact that I was headed for a hotel cinched it, and suggested that I lacked local connections. As we clipped through Manhattan, the cabbie quizzed me about stuff and such. Asked me if I liked boys. I suppose he asked this question many times a day. Figuring someone would eventually go for it, and that would make it all worthwhile. Somehow, I don’t think that, even if the cab driver was attractive and female, I’d’ve gone for it. Perhaps.
He took advantage when he knew my luck was down. Talked foul shit on my name all over this town. Spread my business in the streets and you KNOW that ain’t right. So next time I see the motherfucker I’m fucking him up on sight. Knocking his eyeballs out the back of his head. Whipping on his spinal cord ‘til that shit-talking, insecure motherfucker’s damn near dead. Throwing out that peace shit for something new-fangled. Punching the bridge of that motherfucker’s nose ‘til it’s a perfect 90 degree angle. Taking no prisoners. Taking no names. Rendering a punk motherfucker crippled-ass-lame.
The sun’s a trip. Six yin, half a dozen yang. Everything moves too goddamn fast on Mercury. Rush. No time. Let’s just say Venus ain’t quite as advertised. No breathing. Earth looks sexy from far away. Nice place to swim. The moon’s like the beach, with the right attitude, baby. Mars is all sucked up and red and on edge. Greater Jupiter makes you feel like part of something BIG. Saturn is the hula-hoop capital of this swingin’ solar system. Uranus is nothing but wannabes with nauseating, swollen egos. Bullshit. Neptune is mellow, with a clear flag. 100% gone scene.
A blunt, naïve stylus drops artlessly onto a warped, scratched 45. A hollow, midrange-heavy speaker crackles to life for the first time. The Desert God speaketh. I broke in my first turntable with a copy of Johnny Cash singing “The Little Drummer Boy,” a record my mom kicked down knowing it was fucked beyond any further damage my system could inflict. This was the first record I ever owned. So, if you’ve gotta blame an entertainer for my wide-open range of psychological maladies, you’ll have to go back to the Man In Black. Cash’s voice is a great emotional dehumidifier.
The last time Chris Murphy saw his dad, the old man was wheelchair-bound, with Mob Piru red eyes and facial creases that hadn’t been there two months prior. In two months, Dad wouldn’t be able to communicate with the outside world, thought he would linger for years like a cruel joke. Dad grimly sees it coming. Chris Murphy seeks solace in the office of the Great And Powerful Oz, who warns him against the counsel of those who refused to see any hope they didn’t set out to find. His oven was cooking on high, but had no food inside.
The Age of Aquarius did not end well. The Great Ritual climaxed in a spectacular murder-suicide, and wrapped itself up shortly thereafter. The few remaining adherents to the Great Promise linger on as simpering apologists, annoying punchlines to long-forgotten inside jokes. Stale. Pathetic. Another Age of Mars may be upon us, if advances in genetic manipulation cut short the struggle for general truth by rendering the human experience fundamentally arbitrary. Then how are we supposed to piss away the idle hours? One is tempted to seek Something Else as quickly and desperately as possible. Court the exotic. Milk this day.
After shitting out most of the watery coffee he'd consumed that morning and taking a slow, soothing shower, Sebastian wasn't sure what to do with the rest of his afternoon. He couldn't focus on printed matter. Couldn't watch TV without feeling as though he was courting a migraine. He curled up in fetal position in a dark corner, as though his tiny apartment was on permanent Tornado Drill lockdown. Remained that way for an hour, until he got sleepy. Transferred his heavy presence to the bed. Cranked the fan an the AC, and pulled the quilt around his chin. Opulence.
THIS DICK IS GOING TO KILL YOU. This dick has, as you say, lain dormant for many moons. But that's about to end. Soon enough, you'll see a 1000 Year Reich of this dick. All else will be annihilated. This dick will overpower you. This dick will make you pay for all that you've done. This dick will be the only thing that matters. You will pray to this dick. It will be your new God. This dick doesn't suffer fools gladly. This dick keeps the peace through force. This dick fucking rules. This dick always wins in the end.
I'm combing the aisles at Price Cutter for cheap toilet paper. The Grassroots' "Let's Live For Today" wafts through the Public Address system. And I'm starting to entertain serious questions about my sanity. I mean, it's remarkable that I've stayed so strong so long. I do deserve some credit. I got out of my encounter with the Mothman without fellating him. I survived two goddamn wars. But now, I'm losing my confidence. It occurred to me today that I'm willing to die a violent death to keep you safe from any sort of pain, and I find that rather frightening.
Up, up! Let's get to know the real you. Lay it all on the table, whatever you happen to hold. Sex fiends, let's hear how you'd have it if you could have it your way. Sexists, let's hear how your particular brand of genitalia makes you feel when it's catching the breeze and the sunshine. Racists, show your true colors. Let's can the bullshit. It'll be such a relief to be done with all this TENSION. I promise I'll be so soothed by your sincerity that I'll tender a warm A-frame hug, even – especially – knowing exactly how vile you are.
Alisha. Goddamn, I had the most otherworldly crush on that girl in 7th grade band. She played flute, I played drums. Cutest thing on god's green, but also an aloof priss of epic proportions. Knowing what would happen to my daydream if I tried to pursue it, I never made much of a move. The first time I actually had much of a conversation with Alisha was years later, when she joined my group for lunch. She'd had such drug problems that she'd disappeared for awhile, and was extremely conversational. Funny. Likeable. Fucking up can make one friendlier, I've observed.
Here I am at the Supper Club again. Which means that I'm dreaming. Which means I can get away with anything. I can get away with violent overthrow of the dream authority. Listen. I don't understand why I play along with the dream authority's crackdown on hexagons. It's just not worth the mundane hassle of displaying one, when I get such furtive pleasure, undercover of my relative anonymity, when I even SEE anything roughly hexagonal under these circumstances. I have no lust for hexagons, anyroute. Some of the bigger violations, I'm sure I'd intrinsically enjoy. Some sort of civil disobedience.
Rip the pain from my guts. Let them bleed. Let me awaken in a room where goldfish swim happily in a bowl and nothing is out of place or present in too great a degree. Let me sit down to a hearty pancake breakfast and a hot cup of coffee. Give me the strength to stay competitive. Show me my humble function. Give me the power and empathy to protect others, no more. Keep me organized. Keep me responsibly self-aware. Let me remain a simple, honest man. Give me that much courage, that much wisdom. Make me whole. Calm. Self-sufficient.
Jesus, I could use some fucking shut-eye. In the old days, I could saw away for 14 hours if there was no particular reason to get up. After a few weeks of no more than 4 or 5 hours a night, I start to fray ‘round the edges. I worry that I might nod off in public places. I'm not, you see, a stress junkie. I have difficulty staying organized, and I have to focus rather hard, not allowing myself much leisure or diversion, to get through trying circumstances. So I need – love – my rest. And haven't been getting it.
THE ASEXUAL. When you want something too much, you're never going to get it. Fretting doesn't get you brownie points upstairs. Sacrificing life expectancy won't earn the pity of the fates. Anthony never really wanted sex, but he didn't get it anyway. So be it. Anthony never saw what was the big deal about fucking. Didn't even like to masturbate. When he got stiff, it was painful. Limp, it was pointless, like batting around a popped balloon. Didn't get into sex. Didn't need it. Didn't want it. Not with the overrated girls. DEFINITELY not with the guys. Didn't miss it.
This is your great big day. The sun blasts down, giving you that 3rd degree. So humid, you feel like you're staring up from the bottom of the ocean. And it's the day you've been waiting for. Can't put it off now, even if you wanted to. This is the day you find out. One way or the other. This is the day on which you have to come to grips with the course of the rest of your existence, such as it may be. Nothing you can do now. Unless they pull some last-minute strings, it's already over. Godspeed.
That's the smell of bleach eating through organic matter. That chemical death aroma. Eating away. All right. I'll step outside when I hear you honk the horn. I'll watch the street through the sliding glass door. Ain't shit going on in here. I'd like to give my brain an enema. Stick a hose in one ear. Wash all this impacted shit out of my skull. Let it flow out into the yard. Let it fertilize the daffodils, like the rotting remains of my forebears. Let it serve its humble function, too much a part of the whole to be offensive.
Lonnie Austin. The de facto frontman for Too Much Tylenol, a band my brother played in for a spell in 9th grade. Charismatic little twerp. Talked so much shit, he could've supported the agricultural complex. Funny fellow. We were hanging out at his mom's trailer one dull Saturday afternoon, and he brought out a hand grenade. I pulled the pin and threw it down the hill, into the woods. Never went off, to my knowledge. We smoked up with Lonnie's dented aluminum can he'd poked holes in. Even poked a hole for a carburetor. MUST have ended unhappily for Lonnie.
Baby, it's time for us to leave this sad scene to the tourists. Look into the sun, sail off like helium balloons and soar with the angels. Enter the abstract, as far as the rest of these bloodsuckers are concerned. We've got something better in store. We don't need happiness. Happiness is damn sure overrated. No one's happier than a religious fanatic. Who needs it when you can fly? Who needs it when you can become invisible, walking through these motherfuckers like doorways? We're gonna have it all. We're gonna make them vomit with pure envy. Not happiness, something better.
NO PLACE TO BE A GIRL. Trisha never saw it coming. Her youth passed like sunshine sparkling on water. Married and employed at 22. Three kids by 28. By 34, she wondered how it used to seem like fun. She hadn’t kept records. And now each day was like a grueling lifetime she was forced to live again and again—as punishment for something, she knew not what. Trisha finally put a slug through her temple, splattering the walls of Home Sweet Home with a thousand 10% tips and smoke breaks and shopping carts full of diapers and tedious hours.
To be the man who does things, not the man to whom things are done. To speak without bitching. To act without obligation or expectation. To greet strength with respect and weakness with strength. To slow down now, rather than stop later. To be happy and healthy, lacking good reason for being otherwise. To keep the few, sacred promises I make. To serve. To protect. To feel my oats at all times but stay out of jail. To dole out gratitude in proportion. To bleed out the pain until my sheets are red and my system is clean. To maintain.
The Tip Jar