Saturday, October 7, 2017

My Last Halloween

My urine looks like root beer. That’s a good bad sign, I think. It ain’t from eating rhubarb. My doctor once told me, “Your organs are not happy...” and I rushed straight home and put away a quart of whiskey. I already have hepatitis. The whites of my eyes are yellow. I was putting a brave strain on my liver and kidneys and (probably) pancreas. My pee was now brown. The end was near, thank Manson. I’m feeding the champion within with beer and bourbon. My abdomen is swollen. My face is decorated with ruptured blood vessels, little Braille scabs that describe my disordered life. I look like a Wolverton cartoon.

    I don’t sit at my kitchen table anymore. Sitting there makes me feel like a sack of puppies about to be drowned. I don’t need that. I patiently await my hemorrhage on the loveseat. The cushions are pocked with little burn holes. I can’t afford to smoke anymore. Cigarettes have become too expensive.  Lung cancer was taking too long anyway. I used to cough like a helicopter. There was this girl named Colleen. An anorexic albino, she looked like a vaporous, woeful ghost. Pale and spooky and willowy. We only had sex once. She said intercourse with me was like fucking a fishing rod.

     I used to know a coke-dealer named Ivan, a big Russian with a mustache and a laugh like galloping horses. I once bought a gram from him and gave him too much money. Those were the days. Ivan noticed the error and gave me the extra twenty back. He said, “Honesty is the best policy,” in his deep dark forest of an accent. I thanked him and returned home to find that the coke had been cut to within an inch of its life. Colleen laughed about it for hours. That was the start of her nervous breakdown.

     I haven’t had company since Colleen left. They were all her friends. I didn’t like any of them but at least they drank. We used to stand around the kitchen table, filling our livers. I felt a reluctant kinship. I felt like a character in the AA book. One night three people had to race to the bathroom to puke. We were drinking bubblegum vodka. The smell got to be obnoxious.

    Why are all these sour memories crowding in on me? I pour another shot of bourbon. I don’t know why I don’t just drink straight from the bottle, hobo style. Etiquette? I’m only an obscene animal with a thirst like a plummet. I urge my liver to fail. The next time I piss I want it to be inkjet black. I want to drown in my own blood like Kerouac and W.C. Fields.

     They’re dead and much happier than I am.  

Thursday, September 7, 2017

A Mess (from Bleak Holiday)

Photo by H.K.


“You are a mess, my dear,” she said in her Russian accent.    
“I know.”    
“Your organs are not happy.”    
I had nothing to say to that. The tests had come back.    
“You’ve been drinking today,” she said.    
I nodded, embarrassed.    
“Do you know how I know that?”    
I shrugged my shoulders.
   “Because I can smell the alcohol.”    
She sighed and said, “If you keep this up, you will be dead in one to three years.”    
I nodded. “Okay.”    
She shook her head. For the first time since I’d been going to her, she looked sad. Usually, she was all business; firm, implacable. My doctor.            
“It’s too bad,” she said.    
When I left her office, I thanked her.    
On my way out, I grabbed a lollipop from the front desk. Grape.    
I walked straight to the liquor store. I bought a twelve-pack and then raced back to my building.    
In the hall, I passed the woman who lived across from me.     
Boy, I wanted to fuck her. What was her name again? Erin? Sara? I was pretty sure it was one of the two.     
Hi was the only thing we’d ever said to each other.    
I went into my apartment – beer cans on the floor, rotting food on the stove.    
I threw off my jacket, carried the twelve-pack to the couch and turned on the TV. It was one o’clock and Gunsmoke was on. I cracked a beer and the show started. It was a good one. An outlaw comes back to Dodge and visits the wife who’d thought he was dead. She’d been a grieving widow for years and now he was back.     
By the second commercial-break, I’d opened another beer.    
I thought about eating. It had been a while.     
But I didn’t feel like moving. The pain in my side bothered me too much.    
When Gunsmoke was over (the ending was satisfactory), I went into the kitchen. The kitchen floor was gross: crumbs, stains, muddy boot prints, cigarette butts, what looked like blood...    
I opened the refrigerator but everything inside had gone bad, either crawling with mold or way past the expiration date. The milk looked like cottage cheese. I checked the freezer but everything looked awful to me. When did I buy frozen tacos? Jesus.    
I returned to the couch, my beer. Bonanza was on. The remote control felt like a theoretical object in my hand but I changed the channel anyway.
On one of my many PBS stations, I landed on a documentary on dromedaries that was soothing enough and boring enough to allow me to think and drink.
I dozed off after half an hour. When I woke up I changed the channel again. The Big Valley was on and I thought about writing. I’d started several stories but didn’t have the energy or enthusiasm for any of them: a story about a woman who seduces strange men with her headless, parasitic twin. A story about a snuff filmmaker who feeds children to starving pit-bulls and films the results. A man and the woman he loves drink ice tea together one summer afternoon, and when she leaves his apartment she is hit by a car and dies. When he returns from the hospital, distraught and in shock, he finds that the ice in her glass hasn’t melted yet and he saves the ice in his freezer and becomes obsessed with preserving it.       
But I didn’t feel like writing. I drank another beer. And another.     

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Excerpt from My Novel, COCKTAILS AND CANCER (formerly Anosognosia)

These kids sneaked into The Membranous Lounge with fake IDs...

Cocktails & Cancer Part II


It started with the worms, but not really. I’d been drinking relentlessly (religiously) leading up to my Big Psychiatric Appointment and my reflection looked like a scream in a movie theater. I’d switched from Steel Reserve to a cheap boxed wine called White Burble. It was as atrocious as its name. I hadn’t eaten anything more than a few pistachio nuts in five days. I surrendered to morbid fantasies of lynching myself (even going so far as to hang a necktie-noose from my closet clothes rack), or suffocating myself with Glad Wrap or buying a cheap box of helium from iParty and poisoning my lungs with funny Mickey Mouse gas.

     I prayed for the cancer to return. No surgery, no chemotherapy this time. I would nurse the little black cells like a protective mother with a gulping child.

     My first meeting with the psychiatrist and I was already an emergency.

     It was warm when I set out toward Evergreen Mental Health Services. The sky was bright, cloudless and intense. A sky so blue I wanted to shoot holes in it. Assault the environment. My head was filled with a loud, thirsty crowd, screaming, screaming like angry villagers in a Frankenstein movie...

     I began my weary, Don Birnam[1] trudge feeling every agonized stride like a new wound. Every footstep carried the threat of imminent death. My liver hurt. Two miles stretched ahead of me like Death Valley. After five minutes of walking I knew I was doomed. I considered turning back and cancelling the appointment but then what? Drink more wine and get sicker? I’d reached the end of another rope. I needed help, stat. My desperation both clung to me and tumbled from me like a parasitic twin with crumpled bones.

     Outside the puzzling young woman’s apartment, by the steps there, I noticed a dried out half a mouse (the hindquarters) a spent condom and a bent spoon. More pieces to a savage, enigmatic puzzle.

     A sudden sandstorm whirled, blinding and granular, into my mind and I had to stop and close my eyes a few seconds for fear of fainting. My mouth had gone dry. My tongue tasted (probably) like the dead half-mouse at my feet.

     I can’t do this.

     (All you have to do is get there).

     I kept walking, forcing my weakened, burdensome legs forward. Sweat started. I wished for a handkerchief so I could mop my brow like Louis Armstrong after a taxing solo. Instead, I brushed the sweat from my forehead into my (already oily) hair, pasting it back. I wished for a pair of sunglasses. I wished for a hat. The sun was so assaultive I could feel cataracts developing over my eyes like lenses of milk. All of my internal personae are weak and desperate. There’s nothing to hang onto. Clark Kent turns into another Clark Kent. Nothing under the business suit but flabby flesh weakened by kidneystones of green Kryptonite.

     And then I had a seizure and fell into the street, right in the path of a huge, lumbering truck...


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Hardboiled Crime Fiction

My novel, The Famous Well-Equipped Twins is out and available! Alcohol abuse! Cocaine addiction! Sex! And MURDER!


Sunday, June 11, 2017

14 Story Starts

Yesterday I discovered a forgotten file labeled "Story Starts" on my desktop computer. Stories I began but never completed. Some of them were only one or two sentences, others made it to multiple paragraphs. I'm never going to finish them but I don't want them to go to waste either so I thought I'd post them here. I like vomit.

 1) I remember being in Arkansas in 1972. My grandfather took me to a carnival. I was five. I begged him to let me ride the bumper cars.

 2) I have a lot of shelves in my life. I used to keep all my movies in one room and all my books in the other. One day, I decided to switch. I needed whiskey to give me the courage to move all my books into one room and all my movies into the other room. It took me all day and I got very drunk. Finally, I had all my bookshelves in front of me.

3) I need to disappear if I can.

4) It was Show Off Your Horse Day at the hospital. I was there sucking up some good old chemotherapy when my nurse, Felicia, came into my room, leading a great brown mare.

5) My nurse was sexually attractive but she kept sticking me with needles, filling my veins with nausea-inducing chemicals and monitoring my urine output. I didn’t stand a chance. I was in love.

6) She had strange desires, fetishes that were unusual for a woman. She liked 

7) Sad Jean. We called her “Sad” Jean because she always looked so sad. Her very cells moped with misery. She always wore a tragic expression. We called her husband “Weird Beard” because he had a thick bristling beard and acted weird. He’d served in Vietnam and wore sandals with black socks. He would laugh before he said something, like “Hahaha how ya doin’?”. “Hahaha what can I getcha?”
     Weird Beard and Sad Jean worked for Sad Jean’s father at a honkytonk-type bar called Johnny Cag’s. There was no Johnny Cag. I am uncertain as to the origin of the name.

8) She kept the salamander in her mouth for ten minutes before the shock of the reveal. She came up to me, smirking, winking and then she stuck out her tongue and there it was, a little green salamander.

9) The guy just flopped down and died. Well, he didn’t just die. He had people who fell upon him after he collapsed and they pinched his nipples and made instant scars with razor blades and the guy bled real good.
     It wasn’t until his bowels collapsed that we (the audience) knew the truth.
     He was a famous chef. He swept the floor. He gathered dust. He said hello. He asked questions. He had questions asked of him. He pushed a broom. 

10) Romita buzzed my doorbell at two in the morning.  I was already up so I pushed the button. “Yeah? Who’s this?”
     “Romita! Let me in!”  
     I buzzed her up.
     Romita was a woman. I put on my pants.
     My apartment (at the time) was a tiny sculpture of a children’s hospital.  I rarely had visitors. I could hear Romita’s footsteps gaining on me. She entered my apartment, shedding forensic evidence all over the place. She coughed like a helicopter. 

11) The most hateful job I ever endured was when I worked for a small telephone company in 2003. The company had absorbed a bankrupt competitor and then laid off 99% of the dead company’s workforce. It was my job, as Inventory Clerk, to go to the offices of the bankrupt company and inventory the furniture. So there I was, surrounded by the long faces of employees whose lives had been thrown into frightening uncertainty, while they packed up their belongings. I had to go around counting chairs and measuring desks. I have never felt such hate in my life.
     “Excuse me sir, I need to measure your desk?”

12) The Captain stood musing on the deck of the S.S. Insomnia, large calloused hands clasped behind his back; a stoic, composed deportment he’d rehearsed at home. A band of small blue islands appeared along the seam between sea and sky. The islands (six in all) had been built by the Soviets in the fifties as decoys. The purpose for the islands remained a mystery. Until now.

13) Heavy rain fell on the escaped squirrel monkey as it sat crouched at the edge of the McDonald’s parking lot. It could smell the food even through the rain. It was the summer of 1968, night. The monkey had been ordered from an ad in the back of a comic book and brought into the Brooklyn home of young Billy Hoban and his family. The monkey lived there for three days before it escaped. It escaped through a window screen. There was a small tear in the screen and the monkey just ripped it wide enough to climb through.
     The world was full of noise and movement.
     The monkey climbed to the top of the McDonald’s Dumpster. It could smell the food inside and it searched for a way in, pulling on the Dumpster lid. But it was bolted closed. The monkey sat in the rain. Its stomach raged. Finally, it warily crept toward the McDonald’s, the smell of food driving it forward, the monkey’s savage hunger imparting bravery. The monkey stationed itself by the door and waited.
     Eventually, someone came out and the monkey darted through the open door.

14) I like hazardous, abandoned places. I remember, as a kid, visiting a rotted old house deep in the woods. It had stood since the Gilded Age. It had been broken into so many times that you didn’t need to actually break anything to get inside anymore. Every window had been smashed clear. The front door had rotted off its hinges and lay over the front steps like someone’s idea of a disability joke. There was a yawning hole in the roof like a mouth with a tongue of insulation sticking out. Inside were shards of glass from the windows and the rocks and chunks of brick that had shattered them. The carpets held more mildew than fibers. The walls were probably filled with nests but the house was devoid. It was impossible to imagine anyone living there. Even its memories had been stolen in the thorough and pitiless ransacking. It was not even a home to ghosts.
      The walls were heavily decorated (violated) with graffiti and fist-sized holes. Crumbles of horsehair plaster lay scattered on the floors. 

Another regular at The Membranous Lounge 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

How We Doing, Frank?

Victor, one of the bartenders at The Membranous Lounge.

This is the sweetest setup we ever had. The following story is lead, it's cottage cheese, it's a burning sensation in your urethra. It's included in the cold, black book, LEAVES FROM THE SMORGASBORD! Available now!

Sebastian Cabot, dressed in his immaculate Mr. French wardrobe, cane in hand, strolls the summer-baked streets between Family Affair takes. It is the last season of the show and the year of the gypsy moth plague. Trees weep, stripped of leaves, hanging with gauzy cotton tents that pulse and spill with thousands of furry larval bodies. The asphalt is paisley with multihued, traffic-flattened caterpillars and Mr. Cabot studies them like a secret language only he understands.
     He stops at an intersection. His face drains. The dead caterpillars spell out a fearsome message about Anissa Jones.   
     And Sebastian Cabot weeps like the trees.