Friday, December 6, 2019

HIGH IN THE RAIN IN THE RAIN HIGH



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By

Hank S. Kirton

Joseph remembered the time he got high with his mother. It was a weird, painful, bleeding memory. It taught him nothing. He was fifteen. His mother, Estelle, worked over at the lightbulb factory in Chelsea. She worked third shift. His dad had died when Joseph was four. He’d been a janitor at the high school and sometimes Joseph felt grateful that he had died so he wouldn’t have to say “Hi,” while his dad mopped up puke in the hall. He felt guilty about these feelings but there they were. Joseph couldn’t always control his thoughts.

     Joseph had been smoking weed sporadically since the sixth grade. It was no big deal. He didn’t smoke often, usually just with his friend Billy, and sometimes Raoul and his sister Shjma.. He never got high alone. He got high by himself once and it horrified him. He saw his whole personality. Besides, weed was an expensive commodity and hard to come by. Billy was the only other kid he knew who had a drug connection. And even that was pretty weak and unreliable. They called it “Acapulco Gold” (whatever that was supposed to mean) But the product was grassy and harsh. They did a lot of coughing around Billy’s  rip-off crabgrass.  The high was barely existent. Billy stole the rag-weed from his parents and had to be discrete; he had to be stealthy as shit. You didn’t fuck around with Billy’s parents. No sir. His folks cultivated the stuff in the basement and they did it all wrong. But hey, it was better than nothing

     Joseph kept his drug activity hidden. He sneaked around his mother’s antique, Audubon world, snickering to himself in his sneaky little head. He honestly enjoyed the keen feeling of getting away with something forbidden.

     One drizzly Wednesday afternoon, Joseph got home from school to find his mother sitting at the kitchen table, drinking coffee. “Hi honey,” she said, in an odd, deep voice that was out of character. And what was she doing up? She should be in bed, warming herself with the glowing stories on the television. Resting before another shift with the lighbulbs. But she was up now. Strange.

     “Hey, mother.” Yes, Joseph had been trained to call his mother “mother.” He was often ridiculed by his friends for this weird formality.

     His mother was wrapped in her ratty gray bathrobe, her eyes swollen from sleep. She had just gotten up. Her work schedule was upside down. She lived like a vampire.

     She said, “I know what you’ve been doing.”

     Joseph grabbed a can of Coke from the refrigerator, snapped it open and took a quick slurp. “What?” he said.

     “It feels good, doesn’t it?”

     “Uh, what are you talking about?”

     She swept strands of oily hair out of her face. “I know you’ve been smoking grass, Joseph.”

     He was stunned for a second, then he lowered his head and said, “Oh.” He saw no reason to deny it. Getting caught was always a danger. It was part of the thrill. But how did she find out? He was so careful. He didn’t have a stash in the house. In fact, he hadn’t smoked since he and Billy Rodgers got high behind the sand pits. That was weeks ago.

     “What do you think I should do?” she said.

     Joseph shrugged. “I don’t know.”

     She stood up. “Come with me. I have an idea.”

     She led him outside to the back porch. They stood under the green canvas awning. The rain came pattering down. They faced each other. Joseph’s hands turned into fists. He braced himself for her verdict. There wasn’t much she could take from him. Getting grounded wouldn’t break him either. No way would she get the police involved.

     Then she smiled. “I have something for you. You can think of it as a punishment or a reward. The choice is yours.” She reached into the pocket of her robe and removed what looked like a fat, tightly-rolled joint. She had a blue Bic lighter in her other hand. She plugged the joint into her mouth, lit it, and took a long drag. Then she held the joint toward Joseph and said “Here.” The word came out in a croak as she held the smoke.              

      Joseph looked at the joint, shocked. The familiar smell of the pot was so incongruous to the situation he felt like he was dreaming. He had no idea what to do. He’d never seen this side of her. It was new.

     He hated it.

     His mother finally released the smoke and said, “Go on. Take it.”

     He slowly shook his head and said, “No thank you.” His voice had lifted, gotten higher. He sounded afraid. Hell, he was. The situation was scarily surreal.

    She scowled. “Joseph! You listen to your mother. Smoke this fucking joint, NOW!” She stabbed the joint toward his face as if trying to burn him and he flinched.

     He took the joint. He looked at his mother and said, “Really?” Everything seemed warped, sliding to a burning afterlife. He wanted to run. There were demons behind him.

     She nodded. “Yeah, really.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Ripped from the Pages of Cocktails & Cancer (Formerly Anosognosia)

Here's another brief excerpt from my upcoming book, Cocktails & Cancer (Formerly Anosognosia). This is the part where my testicular cancer is medically acknowledged for the first time. It was a weird day...




-4-

Imagine me in a hospital bed. The room is bright with morning sun. My roommate lies snoring behind a curtain. When he’s awake he doesn’t speak English. The TV is on. Some program director with personal problems is taking out his hostilities by running a nine-hour marathon of Mayberry RFD. I had regained my mind only to lose it again to the Tube.
     Delirium eventually shrinks like a puddle in the sun, leaving only a parched plot of mantic crust, the cracks of which can be read like runes. The dry bed of my recent delirium exposed new evidence in my personal fossil record (we all have one) and I saw the thought of worms again, twice (although I was still uncertain as to their significance) and the puzzling girl with the Louise Brooks haircut. The teabags took on greater importance. And I had chicken McNuggets on my mind all the time. What it all meant was still up for debate but I meticulously catalogued it all. Each small detail carried an equation. I was certain.
     So. I’d been diagnosed with testicular cancer (also chronic alcoholism but that wasn’t a big surprise). The doctor[1] that brought me the bulletin was young, flabby and pale. He looked like a Christian ventriloquist. He asked me to call him Eddie. Sure, Doc. He was nervous and probably thought he was bringing me devastating news and I played it that way but I couldn’t help thinking that cancer was the lucky break I’d been waiting for. I experienced no existential crisis, no fear, anger or sadness. I was, well, sort of elated, actually. Comforted (relieved) that the sad little movie of my life might have a surprise happy ending. My circumstances had finally caught up to my self-pity. That night I slept like a baby on Valium. Finally, I thought, the release and liberation of death without leaving behind the ugly confusion of guilt and anger that suicide ignites. I saw myself comfortably wasting away in front of the TV, huffing medical marijuana, drinking wine, and watching George Weiss movies. And when death finally gathered me up, I’d leave behind only reflective, diminishing grief.
     Whereas, if I were to blow my brain apart with a shotgun, leaving a fleshy mess and some vague, superficial “Goodbye cruel world” note...
     Well, that’s just not nice.
     A nurse came silently into the room with hushed white shoes. She checked my IV and then turned to me and said, “How you doing, Henry?” Her nurse-shirt had colorful bunnies all over it.
     “Okay, thanks.”
     “Do you need anything? You want me to help you wash up?”
     “No thanks. Maybe later.”
     “It might make you feel better. And it’s no big deal. This is my job. You don’t have to be embarrassed. I do this every day.”
     “Oh, no. It’s not that. I just. I’m watching this.” I pointed to Mayberry RFD.
     The ultrasound I’d endured the day before had cured me of any modesty.
     After cooling my DT heels in the bustling hospital hall, I was moved and kept kenneled in an examination room for what felt like an hour and thirty-seven minutes with nothing to look at or do except sit and think. Four white walls enclosed a small sterile area utilitarily decorated in a Spartan medical motif. Mysterious little gizmos and empty fluorescent space. There was a chair. A padded table covered in deli paper. The white no-smell of cotton. A room designed to be dull. Even the calendar (the sole civilian thing on the wall) offered nothing more than a month’s worth of vacant dates.
     The doctor, Edwin, came into the room behind a quick, perfunctory knock.
     “Hello, Henry. How you holding up, my man?”
     My man? “Okay,” I said.
     “Great. We’re trying to get you set up with a room. It’s been crazy today, more than usual. In the meantime, let me take a look at you. Can you lie back for me?”
     I did. He pressed my abdomen with a gloved hand. “Does this hurt?”
     “No.” Should I tell him?
     He pressed left. “How about here?”
     “No.” When I was a kid my mom got me Kojak bedsheets...
     “What about now?”
     “No.” I have to say something.
     “Okay, we’re gonna take you back outside for awhile. Hopefully a bed will become available soon. We’ll get you some more Valium too. You seem a little agitated.” He pulled off his glove with a snap.
     “Wait. There’s something else,” I said.
     “Oh?” he said. He dropped his gloves into a black canister, raising the lid with a foot pedal. Then he turned toward me, waiting with raised eyebrows.
     “Um,” I said. “One of my testicles is hard. Swollen. And I come without ejaculating. It feels the same but nothing comes out.” America’s sweetheart is a dead manatee on a dead-end street in a dead town.
     “Okay. Let me take a look,” he said, putting on fresh gloves.
     I pulled aside the hospital gown. “The left one.”
     For the first time in my life someone else’s hand was feeling my gonads.
     “Hmmmm...”
     I stared up at the gray ceiling of dead galaxies and thought about reincarnation. Instead of tumors and biopsies, I thought about a nervous, irritably-bowelled Virgin Mary yelling at Joseph. That putz. I remembered the episode of Ironside when the hippie housewife smokes a joint laced with something and in her narcotized confusion puts her baby in the oven and the Thanksgiving turkey in the crib. Or was that from a Dragnet?
     Doctor Eddie asked me questions about my balls, still probing, looking. I thought about something else.
     Finally, he stepped back and peeled off his gloves again.
     “Okay, Henry. I’m going to send you down for a CAT scan and an ultrasound. We need to get this looked at as soon as possible.”
     “What do you suspect?’ I asked, fastening my metaphorical seatbelt.
     “Nothing to be afraid of,” he lied.


[1] Dr. Edwin Blankenship


Arlene Martel in The Twilight Zone
  
More Fiction Here!

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Bite

Lest ye forget, this novel is still ripe. 236 pages and the word "vampire" never appears. Madcap morbidity and minimum-wage surrealism. You have never seen the likes of RAZOR WIRE KISS! And that's really my X-ray on the back cover. Nuff said!


 This is a link

Monday, September 9, 2019

HOW CLARA WON THE WORLD



Clara hadn’t seen her monstrous reflection in almost three years. She hated her face. Couldn’t bear to look upon it or allow others to glimpse it. Her little visage made people sick. Grown women cried quietly.

     Twenty years ago her mother, gripped by contractions and racing to the hospital, lost control of her Buick Regal and smashed into a jagged pile of granite boulders. It was a miracle they’d both survived. Luckily, a police cruiser spotted the wreckage and called for an ambulance before blood loss brought the curtain down. At the hospital, her mother, Estelle, while being treated for deep lacerations and several broken bones gave birth to her daughter through a screaming cyclone of trauma and pain. They almost died, but didn’t.

     However, they were not undamaged. Estelle still walked with a limp and had shocking scars all over her body. She refused to talk about the accident. Sometimes she denied it ever happened.

     Clara was born with a fractured skull that didn’t heal right, causing her to mature into a hideous and grotesque gargoyle. So, eventually she hid from the world. From everyone. From THEM.  

     And now her ugliness was spreading to her soul. She had bad thoughts. Like poison ivy, its tendrils slipping around her and whispering the black thoughts. Thoughts of spectacular suicides. Of going on an armed rampage. Murdering her mother with an ax. The black thoughts were what experts called “intrusive.” They intruded all right. Sometimes her bruised brain projected horror movies full of violence, deformity and gore.  She didn’t know how or why such dark fantasies occurred to her. She didn’t even like horror movies for chrissakes.

     Clara had not left her bedroom in three years.  She spent a lot of time under her bed communing with the dust bunnies. She wrote down her dark, lacerating thoughts in spiral notebooks that she stacked in front of her window. Clara never looked outside for fear of glimpsing her reflection in the glass.

     She voided her bowels and bladder into an antique chamber pot that her mother dutifully emptied for her every morning. Her mother also brought her three square meals per day. She left the tray of food outside Clara’s locked door and then went downstairs to wait while Clara crawled out to claim the tray like a skittish alley cat.

    

Estelle hadn’t seen Clara’s face in three years. They talked through the locked door. Her daughter was a difficult, unstable creature she kept hidden and safe from the world. But Estelle also felt genuine relief that Clara had decided to make herself scarce. She told people Clara was away at college in New Jersey (Princeton). Not that anyone asked. The arrangement was mutually advantageous. Estelle maliciously gloated over her secret, sensitive daughter and Clara remained hidden to practice her Art. They had an understanding. They relied on each other to live. They were bound by NEED. The relationship was exhausting at times but Estelle did her best. Clara had a temper that could ignite and burst at the slightest provocation.  Luckily Estelle had no choice but to keep her distance...

    Meanwhile, Estelle started thinking seriously about guns again.

Monday, July 22, 2019

A Message From Our Sponsor

Last year's office Christmas party. Can you find me? Hint: I'm not wearing cuff links.

Meanwhile, my books can be purchased HERE!

Valium Please!


Glossolalian doxology:
Dropped, the organ-grinder’s monkey did drop, stricken by simian-tuberculosis, dropped with a last stertorous, “Ook.” Hidden in a pink pillowbox the sea otter cracks open a Silly Putty egg while the pinched sunrise brings gnawing sorrow to corrupt fear-laden attorneys. One among them. The Chameleon Virus struck Richard mauve. DNA swab deemed inconclusive by reason of molecular defect. Mint-flavored mitochondria. Put on this hospital johnny; I AM Hospital Johnny! Following triage I’m left in a crowded hall (no rooms available yet – it might be days they tell me with no TV) and given a Valium drip. Rehydration Excitation by the Beach Boys. Was that the one penned by Charles Manson? Like a chain-smoker with a lost larynx burping words, it helps to elude the claustrophobic madness that sterile, hospital boredom brings. Heliophobic Margaret on the beach, masked in sunscreen, marked with Noxzema, flaunting a floppy hat sewn from tatters of the AIDS quilt. Life’s not a funny thing. Twitching brings more brings more Valium-yum-yum. Dancing with a widow at her husband’s funeral: “So long, Bob. Helloooo, Babs!” Writing a requiem that reads like an eighth-grade vocabulary test (treatise, dour, penultimate), chanted by a chorus of illiterate street prostitutes infected with the galloping gleet (this being the 50’s and all). “Gonna need some penicillin here! Stat!” Sorrell Booke playing John Wayne Gacy in a Broadway musical called Love Don’t Shame (1985) to hostile audiences and even angrier reviews. Glenn Strange serving the cirrhotic livers of jaundiced cattle drivers at the Long Branch Saloon. Jerry So-and-so, the convicted robber sentenced to a life of pointless puppetry. Celebrated for glandular excellence. It was all over the news. Didn’t you hear? A Certificate of Achievement was given. Handed out to prostrate multitudes. How you doing, Henry? Big Nurse asks. Okay, I say, hunched over a speeding motorcycle, ready to die in the forecasted crash. We’re going to need a urine sample. Think you can pee through a Lifesaver? Butter Rum? A white table of grocerystore samples with aromas like distressed sighs. More grotesque than a medieval spittlehouse. A voice like Gavin McCloud’s friendly voice slinking across the liquid zoo through air vents of impossible exhaust. Hey there, I’m Dr. Blanket. Dr. Blanton. Dr. Something. I’ll take a look at you in just a minute, okay Chief? Appreciate your patience. Appreciate your patients. In the end it’s as natural as the Lemon Pledge you breathe. Channeling the angry spirit of Ty Cobb as it crunches through a bowl of Grape Nuts in Morse code. Applause at a murder scene. You have to admire his enthusiasm! She tells me all I need to know about my missing father with her catalytic resemblance to Farley Granger. As much fun as an Old Prussian Water Park. No splashing! Remain still! We still need that urine sample. Delirious. The dreary carsick toothache remembrances of the Class of `85. They served cold treacle and rancid beeftallow at the ten-year reunion. Butchered bits of tumorous offal swept from a sawdust floor. Date-rape tunes by Toto and Foghat; the cloying soundtrack to a hurried violation. The sound of sweat. Zippers and flasks. Oh, Hi Heather! You look great! Thanks, I just had an abortion! My third! Well, good for you. Do you have any pictures? You wanna buy some? Gray ceiling full of dead galaxies. Postcards from the Auschwitz giftshop. I stopped caring once Patty Duke died. She wore an expression like her transvaginal mesh had disintegrated. The restaurant served a dish so difficult and unfamiliar you had to get a new tastebud grafted onto your tongue weeks in advance just to experience it. Novelty ice cubes with frozen zygotes inside. Shaped like Peter Ustinov. Drop them in a drink and watch the little gibbons giggle. The chalk outline of a nervous breakdown. A used condom in the beak of a seagull. I’ve never used this escape before. Fake it till you make it. How does it start? Not with the teabags anymore, schmuck. Don’t tell me! The gurney floats the length of the hall. Sick, wounded expressions of degenerative disease pass like decorations, like Japanese lanterns strung across a garden party of awkwardly posed rigormortis cadavers. “Hey, make `em 69! Haw-haw!” It’s the 1920’s all over again. Like nothing happened. Casey Kasem: This next dedication goes out to all you used tampons out there! He calls running across a graveyard “corpse-surfing.” Everything smells like Ben-Gay here. I’m ready to give that urine sample now. No justice for the families of the neighbors of the families of the victims. How do you think they feel? A greasy-mustachioed mechanic with a prostate full of worms has an opinion on the Middle East. Get rid of it. Relocate everyone to Tampa. Sleet on Doppler radar looks like dead Rotarians. You could see it on TV if you had one. A foraging Sasquatch finds a McDonald’s bag on the side of the highway. Pictures exist of the hairy behemoth eating the remains of a twenty-piece chicken McNugget meal (you want fries with your colonoscopy?). It chews the sauce out of the packets. An Eskimo feeds a fire with books written by Adolph Hitler’s kid sister. She wrote children’s books under the name Namby Pamby. It must be done. Lemme check your vitals. Nancy Walker, murderous and menopausal travels to Baltimore and kills her ex-lover with a lawnmower blade. The tabloids fail to mention the utter insouciance of the event. My life can be condensed into one sentence fragment: Another Stanford Prison Experiment gone wrong. Novelty toilet paper presaturated with LSD and planted in countryclub bathrooms along the East Coast. Sexual mayhem. Situational neurologists treating chronic pain with pornography. Can you lie back for me? Does this hurt? How about here? In high school the girls nicknamed me Getthefuckawayfromme. At the reunion I wore a scarlet nametag. When I was a kid my mom got me Kojak bedsheets. “Who loves ya baby...” bald Savalas mumbled from the pillow. I’d never even seen the show. There is something else, I tell the doctor (blanket). One of my testicles is hard and swollen. And I come without ejaculating. America’s Sweetheart is a dead manatee on a dead-end street in a dead town. I feel the warm thigh of the nurse against my arm. Sweet memory of the brief encounter will haunt me for years. Using Google to search for the cruder things in life. A porn site exploiting the visual shock of apes and amputees (Chimps and Gimps) locked in carnal congress. My left nut feels like a golfball, has for months. A blockage perhaps? I show him. He feels. Awake from a daze, Mrs. Belbaum finds the Butterball in her baby’s crib. “Oh no! Joey!” That turgid song by the Cowsills about decomposition on a sunny day. Remember when Bernhard Goetz was on The Love Boat? Julie the Cruise Director had blow on her nose. They found human gall-bladders in the seaweed and had to close the beach. Illegal dumping of surgical scrapbuckets. Measure the facial expression of a man dissecting a dog and the data will match this doctor to the millimeter. A CAT scan is indicated. That and an ultrasound. They must begin at once and I’m still drunkdrunkdrunk. Mutilated soldiers file through the turnstiles of a petting zoo. Touch the goat with your armstump. How does that feel, Private? Fine Sarge. Just fine. What did you expect? Nothing to be afraid of. I heard The Scorpions playing just before the gunshot. Treatment and outcomes spill onto the floor like some kind of greasy discharge. Sucking the pus from used bandages. The sugary perfume of medical waste. The blind shriek of thrombocytopenia. What? Catheter penance for my sins. Metastatic action boy. Fuck. More Valium please, Doc.
·         Valium, please.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Don't Forget to SEIZE Your Very Own Copy of Pancreatic Carburetor!!

4 out of 5 people writhing in straight-jackets recommend Pancreatic Carburetor to their friends that chew gum.


 The critics have spoken! (in strangled, discouraging tones):

"Stories about stuff. I think..." -- Pat McGroin

"Migraine inducing..." -- Benjamin Dover

"I liked it up until the first story..." -- Heywood Jablome

"Reminds me of roadkill..." -- Connie Lingus 

"The literary equivalent of used kitty litter. You know that ammonia smell? Like that..." -- Buster Hymen

YOU CAN PURCHASE THIS TOME HERE: Click it.
 
Aw yeah!

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Music Hath Charms


I worked with this lopsided cat named Glen back in the kitchen when I was a cook and he was a dishwasher and high-schooler. We didn’t work together long. He didn’t last. He would do shocky stuff like draw on the whites of his eyes with a felt pen and extinguish cigarettes on his arms or tongue. He did it to show people something about himself. Probably the shockiest thing he did was listen to Frank Zappa. See, the kitchen staff would take turns with the tape player and we were bent on irritating each other. It didn’t seem to be about enjoying the music. So, one kid would play Blood Feast and another kid would play Dinah Shore and I would puzzle people by playing abrasive “sound sculptures” I taped off college radio. And Glen would play Uncle Meat or something. We were using music to say, “Fuck you,” to each other.

But it wasn’t all negative. One night Glen drew a happy face on his eyeball. You can’t get more positive than that. 😃