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Two men share one scalp. They trade off, every week; the idiots assume it's a wig deal. Edward talks about people denying reality; Rod considers the wig idea.
Rod likes it long, Edward prefers a buzz cut. ‘We're receding,’ Edward says. ‘You don't want to look like an idiot.’
‘What about that donut girl? She liked it.’
‘She was stoned.’
Rod sighs. ‘Yeah.’ He's depressed about the discontinuation of the Corvair.
Edward tries to understand. Months go by, and he endures the looks, thinking about Rod humming as he makes dinner.
When we fight,
he reminds himself,
I pumped an entire magazine of shells into that fucking thing. I stood there in front of it and hauled on the trigger till my finger split and bled; I only noticed when the gun suddenly felt sticky, slippery. The bullets ripped through it and came out the other side and stuck little bits of it all over the wall, which was that awful Formica stuff from the seventies. Some part of my brain was expecting splinters, but duh,
it's not wood
. The formica just flaked apart and after it fell I peered at pitted concrete through shattered unwood gaps.
Shigellum. Fluke joint. Jam later. She’s got antennae. Cheap cigar; declare war. Rag on a stick. Shuttle to the marsh. The deep country. Too stoned to move, to fucking
. Hammer don’t hurt ‘em. Ham sandwich and grunt. Too much for dinner. Dinner later. Dyed tomatoes. Which little piggy? Poke in the eye. Third degree burns. High-dollar item. Plasticene porter. ‘I remember entertainment!’ Burn the flag. Rug on a stick. Mote in the high beams. Rev it up, Jonny! No time for baton curlers. Endow it. Shuffle. Here’s your goddamn haiku; I hope you choke on it.
I'm in a bar where I go to write sometimes. On the TV I just saw something about a man in North Carolina being infected with anthrax. My heart stopped. The TV's sound is off and Steve Miller is playing,
big old jet air liner
. Some talking news heads, a shot of a confident-looking Saddam Hussein walking with henchmen on a beach. A trivia question - what's the life expenctancy of an Afghan woman? - followed by shots from a RAWA documentary. A car commercial. A woman sitting at the bar wants to know why she doesn't get this channel at home.
jalopy in the shop,
pump apart the pickle parts
and push 'em till they pop.
Bungle in the jungle
with an uncle in a wig,
beg off on a bad bar bet
and call a prig a prig.
Nachos in a catapult,
salami in a bag,
casters loose on icy slate,
a summer snack of slag.
Bulging-eyed and beefy-lipped,
the sick sorprano flails,
his sorry thick libretto
like a fuck star off the rails.
Lippy little leper
licking lilies like a loon,
a pulchritude pontoon.
dropsy and ague,
funky red funicular,
a shipwreck in a shoe.
I was the greatest screwdriver juggler who ever lived. I did a routine to Pink Floyd's 'On the Run' that left my brother's friends glass-eyed and drooling. People came from all over the neighborhood to crouch in the garage in a haze of smoke and watch me reverse a fourteen-inch Phillips seventy-two times in thirty seconds while spinning a short-work on the knuckles of my other hand. Martin and I joked about renting Madison Square Garden and pumping in enough pot smoke to anesthesize a herd of elephants. Just a fantasy, sure; but admit it, it would have been
Table in a bar. Dim lights, red net bottled candles on the table. Aerosmith ballad playing low, tasteful. Waitress is fleshy, in a low-cut high-slit sheer black dress, with well-coiffed dishwater hair; she settles into a crouch and leans in smiling for the order.
'What'll it be, boys?'
'I'm a girl,' says the first mummy, primly, through paperly lips.
'I'm sorry,' laughs the waitress uncomfortably. 'You know, the bandages...'
'Don't worry about it,' says the second mummy, waving dismissively with a cigar. 'We get that all the time.'
His finger falls off. The waitress reaches forward automatically and catches it.
We were returning from Greece, sore and constipated in the Minneapolis airport, almost home but for the goddamn scheduling, stuck with three hours to kill, wandering around sleep-deprived in a bizarro airport mall, sucking on smoothies and discussing the idea of a rentable personal DVD player: an entirely reasonable dot-com idea as of September 1999. In a gift shop we did double-takes on artificial cats, eerily realistic sleeping white Persians, and gave each other The Look, but we both had the same thought. Then you found the catnip log, with its promise of home, and I had to run for the bathroom.
Jemal was born a little different and, in adolescence, decided to become a superhero. They discovered his power when he lost a baby tooth and nearly drowned. There followed a few years during which he was not permitted to leave the house without The Suit, but by the time he was thirteen he'd convinced his parents that he wanted to be a regular kid. Secretly, at night in the garage, he worked on a mechanism that let him trigger a needle into his knuckle with a movement of two fingers. The resulting jet of blood could knock over a house.
Dining on the patio, they are approached by a stray cat, a skinny calico. The cat is friendly, leaping lithely into the woman's lap after she feeds it a bit of veal.
"Aw...!" coos the woman.
"Hey," says the cat, "I know where you can get some real nice jewelry, cheap."
The man perks up. "What about coins? Old coins?"
"Sure," purrs the cat. The woman is stroking his fur. "Doubloons. Triploons."
They follow the cat through winding streets until they're lost. Its littermates appear; one grabs the traveler's cheques.
"Those aren't any good unless they're signed," the man observes.
People worry about the sun exploding but the truth is that by that time, mankind will be reduced to a group of about 4000 people living a compressed-air existence on a rock the size of Maine. The disease will wipe out the homeworlders months before the rockets are completed and they'll be left with conflicting estimates of when Sol will blow, living in a very small space and staring at each other with stares so pregnant that their ears will hurt. The big flares will be regular by then; "Duck and cover!" they'll joke, looking uselessly at their watches.
I used to get high. Fifteen years ago, and I only really enjoyed it for two. It ended one night when you took me to your lover's dorm to party with him and his friends. We were stoned as hell in the room and I saw myself in the mirror: long hair, flannel over black Zeppelin shirt, some ridiculous medallion around my neck. Pure horror. An eastern European girl, tall with short black hair and vulnerable eyes, wanted me and took me to her room, where I immediately passed out on her bed. Since then I've been obsessed with self-portraits.
David Bowie brushes his teeth, spits. Few people know this, but he has an extra testicle! It responds to pressure and friction by emitting spontaneous melodies. (Some of them are better than others.) He calls up Stephen King: "Hey, Steve -- I think you should write a book about a poor Hispanic woman dealing with menopause." King fumbles through his gratitude, nearly speechless, then wakes up his wife, who has four rows of teeth, and tells her the news. She's so excited that she burns her bra and blows up the car. Down the road, bats mate with crows in the trees.
A rood, a rod, a rubber raft,
a particle event,
a poison black particulate,
a werewolf in a tent.
spinning on a pin,
a buckedload of shin.
Sham surfaces of solitude,
dark drizzlings of delight,
a whack job with a wooden leg,
a kitten with a kite.
Pink waves of adulation
pouring from the pontiff's ear
into the hungry hellfire of
a nonrotating gear.
A charismatic countersink,
a haul-ass in a hole,
suppurating sweetly with
sweet superheated soul.
She made a man a monster,
dark dilate dune of nude,
soft velvety velocity,
There are people who think I'm marginally hip, but the truth of the matter is that I have a thing about Elton John. "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" vies with "Filigree and Shadow" and "Sheer Heart Attack" for the title of TREVOR'S FAVORITE ALBUM ON EARTH EVER. I can sing along with every song, and I regularly fantasize about amazing my wife's parents with the piano part from "Grey Seal." Every song is so good it just makes you want to cry; it's like they recorded them all during a stretch when everybody in the band had just fallen in love.
If you like to read, settle down with a reader. If the one thing you want to do when things go to shit is curl up with a novel, move in with somebody who has a bookshelf full of trashy mysteries and children's stories. When friends have parties, beg off claiming to be sick, or leave at nine and go home to read a graphic novel about an alcoholic Irish vampire or a history of the McDonald's corporation. Take personality inventories that peg you off the scale of introversion and fall asleep reading an M.R. James ghost story. It's good.
MY NAME HE SAID IS SCHUBERT VON SCHTEERP. HE WAS NOT SO MUCH A MAN AS A MAN-SHAPED COLLECTION OF ORGANS THAT OTHERWISE HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH ONE ANOTHER. HIS EYES WERE SHARP LITTLE CHIPS OF ICE THAT COULD MAKE YOU FORGET AND MANY DID. FOR A JOKE HE WOULD GO INTO A HOSPITAL AND SHUFFLE ABOUT HALF NAKED MAKING NOISES LIKE A WOUNDED DUCK. HE LOVED A GIRL BUT SHE DID NOT LOVE HIM BACK AND CONSEQUENTLY HE DRESSED BADLY. BUT HE LOVED FREEDOM AND HIS COUNTRY ABOVE ALL ELSE AND DIED A HERO IN HIS MIND.
When I was little my parents gave me a refrigerator box to play with in the backyard. I made it into a spaceship and flew to the moon which was populated with narrow gray creatures that could not be seen unless they were moving. I got scared and flew back but the creatures followed me. Nobody believed me even when the dusty bony things were standing
there right there
, even when all the squirrels disappeared and the neighborhood dogs began howling incessantly. Unable to lock my bedroom door I lay in the dark with a flashlight and sang to myself.
My wife watches QVC sometimes, just for the oddity of it. The other night there was a lady on there who had designed a line of handbags. Her spiel seemed perfunctory and she was snippy with the regular presenter, an exuberant middle-aged brunette in perfect physical condition. The handbag lady, in all black with a fur over one shoulder, looked like she had spent a lot of time abusing prescription drugs. At one point a bag opened unexpectedly and everything spilled out; "Fuck on wheels," the handbag woman snapped, "this wasn't packed!" Laughing, the other woman took an unsteady step backward.
The other night I dreamed that I'd been talked into joining a baseball team. The other players wore eyeliner and spent a lot of time with their hands on their knees, swinging their asses around. The ball was tiny, hard and black, and the bat looked like something that had been broken off of an eighteen-wheeler. Gradually I became aware that each player had his own personal toilet bowl, next to where he stood. Except me; instead of a toilet, I had a crate on which the word "PUMPKINS" was stenciled. When I woke up, I had eaten my bedspread.
I used to go to gay bars a lot with my best friend, who was gay. I loved to drink, and I loved not having to worry about whether I was supposed to be hitting on somebody. It was much more fun to watch people there than in straight bars -- it seemed like people were more relaxed, drunker, being themselves. Guys would try to pick me up sometimes, but I would tell them I was straight, and they would say "Sure," and wink and walk away. Now I go to sports bars to write, because I don't like sports.
In the future, time will be tamed and in America, you'll have the option of living achronologically. You'll be able to age backwards, or to mix it up so that one year you're 32 and the next year you're twelve. Showing up to work after a change will be a favorite minor thrill, like a new hairstyle. Due to the Conservation of Time, you won't be able to spend your whole life at a particular age; however, if you like, for the entire length of your life, you'll be able to spend one day every three months as a twenty-two-year-old.
Darth Maul walks into Sears. He needs a chainsaw, but is unsure how to ask where they are -- he's never had any lines, so all he knows how to do is snarl. Swirling his black cape, he jabs the handle of his lightsabre (it's on the fritz -- thus the need for the chainsaw) into the abdomen of a sixteen-year-old salesgirl. Gasping, she stumbles off for the manager, who instinctively guides the Jedi to the right section of the store. The salesgirl is angry and frustrated, so the manager takes her aside. "We must protect our heroes," he soothes.
Your personality comes in pieces, but it's up to you to put them together; some people do this better than others.
When I was in my twenties, I met a girl at Rock Island, rail-thin and with a killer self-involved dance. She said her name was Xaviour. Smashed into bold sincerity on tall blue mixed drinks, I spent an hour or so telling her how cool she was and made her a Dead Can Dance tape. Later I learned that she was living in her car and suffering from a bladder infection so painful that she was unable to sleep.
Denise is somewhat taken aback to learn that the new analyst's name is Howard, because the name does disappointingly little to explain the tattoo on the man's forehead. "TEXAS DICK," it says, in elaborate gothic lettering, reversed like the legend above the grille of an ambulance.
Irene has already figured it out. "Getting it removed from there would be
," she confides.
Denise frets. "Couldn't he wear a hat?"
Both are startled when Howard steps from behind a nearby cube. "We all have to pay for the mistakes of our youth," he says, smiling at his reflection in the window.
I dunno about you, but I think the new Star Trek series is severely lame. I was hoping the return to the past would mean a return to the bizarre plotlines of the original series, with Greek gods and gangsters and planet-eating monsters. Instead, we get the same boring 2-D aliens, more painfully-stretched plots about squelching phobias and fulfilling your potential, and a shower scene featuring an impossibly busty Vulcan hottie who's on the cover of Gear magazine this month (not that I looked). It makes me feel the same way I felt when I saw the first X-Men video game.
I knew a guy who had a multicolored mohawk; he lived in a crackerbox apartment on Capitol Hill, had a friend who was a crackhead black woman, and slept hanging almost upside-down on a mattress folded in half in a closet. One night when a bunch of us were driving around, he got himself off in the back seat, out of boredom; we all thought it was hilarious. I worshiped him a little because he was so popular with hot little punk girls; in return, he let me paint a beautiful swirly skull on the back of his leather jacket.
Feet scrape and bump on the floorboards; the quiver in the male dancer's arms is clearly visible as he holds the female dancer above him in the air. Circles of colored light are carefully arrived at, and setpieces that were designed to be viewed at a distance are carefully avoided. Below, even closer, working musicians blow and saw expressionlessly, eyes straight ahead, turning their pages in rough simultanaeity; some of them wear makeup that appears unflattering in the stage light overspill, while others merely wear black and tie their hair back. The man with the cymbals stands resolutely, waiting, waiting.
In 1984, I covered the entire paintable surface of my Dodge Dart with airbrushed skulls and imitation H.R. Giger landscapes. The next year, as part of an interview at the Kansas City Art Institute, I showed photos of the Deathmobile to a professor there. He had just finished telling me that I should stop drawing with two-dimensional lines, so I thought he might like the airbrushed shading. But when he saw the car he shook his head and said, "That's not art." Then he stopped. "Well, it
on a car," he said to himself. "Maybe because it's on a car..."
I'm 34 and I feel like I'm still struggling with writing barriers I thought I had licked at 23. Reading Burroughs taught me a lot about letting go, but somewhere after that I forgot it all; recently I was even sending manuscripts to agents again. The thing is, it's like any other art form: if you're not doing it in a way that feels good, not only are you wasting your VERY SHORT lifespan, you're never going to create anything genuine or original. Done right, writing should feel like a dream state: impossibly pure and beautiful, magical and indescribably
October: that's the month. Wayne and I used to stage haunted walk-throughs in the backyard, dangling a huge black homemade foam rubber spider on a fishing rod to dance about the heads of screaming neighborhood girls. David Bicket lay in the hole we dug under the fake body, thrusting my Alien hand-puppet up through the hole in the dummy's chest and writhing around; it looked so good we couldn't believe it wasn't real. Dashing around in the leaves, to hell with the trick-or-treating; far better to make kids scream and laugh and then go inside and inhale Ray Bradbury's twisted dreams.
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