Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Ben Made Heads



Ben made heads. He made them out of foam rubber and latex and he made them to resemble his friends and family. It was Art. It was personal. It was a statement about identity and mortality. He kept the heads in his bedroom, twenty in all. He was seventeen when I knew him (I was 16) and I let him make a duplicate of my head. He poured goop over my face and made a mold. I had to breathe through straws in my nostrils. I felt smothered and claustrophobic under all that goop. When he’d finished there was my severed head in the pile with the others. I felt strange and fractured, looking at my own face. He’d even captured the little blue vein in my temple. The hair was painted on. All the heads had closed eyes. They looked like they were sleeping. Peaceful heads. His parent’s heads were there. His grandparents were represented. The only head he was missing was his brother’s. His brother Justin was twenty-two and refused to let Ben copy his head. He thought the whole enterprise was creepy and morbid.
     So it was quite ironic when Justin was decapitated in a car accident.

Monday, February 15, 2016

He Was Abrupt With People



He was abrupt with people. Many people didn’t like him because he was so abrupt. He answered questions with a hatchet. His name was Karl and he was seventy-six years old and he worked as a greeter at the local Walmart. He was abrupt with the customers. He had a metal plate in his skull (he’d incurred a serious head injury in Vietnam) and had been struck by lightning four times in his long life. He blamed the metal in his head.
     “Does it hurt to get struck by lightning?”
     With deep rich sarcasm, “No.” 
     Karl died on the job. Cerebral hemorrhage. He expired in the store. Those that saw him collapse swear that sparks shot out of his eyes. Dave, a nearby cashier still maintains that his wristwatch stopped the second Karl’s brain misfired. Dave likes to tell his coworkers his dreams. He dreams a lot. The night after Karl’s collapse he dreamed of meeting a beautiful woman in a grocery store. “I like my men tortured,” she told him.
     “I’m tortured,” he said.
     “Then you’re for me, sweetie.”
     He woke up feeling jagged pangs of loss and futility.
     He went to work anyway.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

It Was My 19th Birthday



It was my 19th birthday and two of my friends and I had dropped acid. Mick and I were sitting in his Gran Torino. It was snowing. The snow was coming down in multicolored arcs straight from outer space. We were parked in Joe’s driveway, waiting for him to come out. All three of us had taken the little blue tabs (Man-On-The-Moon) separately at a prearranged time so we’d be coming on as we gathered. The music pouring from the radio was a syrupy cacophony of voices and ethereal sounds, all twisting together like a stream polluted with oil. A black miasma of sound. And then Joe’s face was doing rubbery figure-eights on the window, vaporous and so distorted his eyes appeared to be melting into his nostrils, drool dribbled from his distended mouth. He sucked at the glass like a fish in an aquarium. His eyeballs bulged. Then he was a lizard, his purple fibrous tongue mashing against the glass like a slug, leaving a trail of slime across the window. Joe seemed to be devolving, teaching us a primal lesson about what it means to be human. We are made of ALL the creatures on the planet, not just related to apes. People are part of a single protean organism and, and Joe’s face was a crab and then it was an eel and then a squid, and and...
     And then Joe laughed and opened the door. Mick said, “What the fuck did you do that for? We’re on acid.”
     “That’s why I did it.”
     And then we drove to the mall and the adventure continued.  

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

It's Freezing as I Leave the Building



It’s freezing as I leave the building and I hear a strange mewling sound. I look toward the source of the sound and see a woman, bundled-up like a Russian peasant standing at the edge of the parking lot. She sees me and moans, “Oooh no...”
     “Are you okay?” I ask her.
     “Nooo... I can’t move. I’m stuck.” She looks to be in her fifties, heavy, wearing thick glasses.
     “Stuck?” My first absurd thought is that she’d wandered into a huge glue trap.
     “The ice,” she says. “I can’t move or I’ll fall. I’m really scared!” Frantic, hysterical.
     I step toward her and realize that the asphalt has turned to black ice. She’s walked onto an incline and is paralyzed with fear. Stranded. Two steps behind her is an island of frozen grass. I point this out to her. “Can you turn around?”
     “No! I can’t!” Tears are running down her broad, florid face.
     The only thing I can think to do is offer my arm and let her lean against me for balance and then guide her onto the grass. But as I try to move up the hill I begin slipping. I’m wearing sneakers; she’s wearing boots. Neither of us can get traction.
     She sees me struggling and this gives her sudden courage. “Never mind,” she says and turns around and takes two small steps to safety.
     “Are you okay?” I ask her.
     “Yeah, thanks.” She pulls out a cell phone. “I’m supposed to be at work. I’ll have to call in now.”
     I walk away. Is she going to say it’s too slippery to come to work? I’ve used many excuses to miss work, never that one.