Thursday, September 6, 2007

Being Remembered

He stares hard at the student waiting at the other side of the center desk. She asks to pick up her package, and he nods, has her sign the register, and hands over a cardboard box. The co-secretary is gone for the day, and he swears that the fluorescent lights that they were replacing when he walked in that morning are now burning halos into his corneas. When the first desk worker arrives, he steals away with a small book of one pages stories and heads to the hole-in-the-wall bakery down the street. Both managers are at a meeting.

He orders two shots of espresso and a buttermilk scone, and the girl behind the counter – the pretty one – recognized him but doesn’t know from where. She asks him how he’s doing, and if he’s busy this semester. He nods. She asks him about his class load, and he tells her that he’s only taking one class in an MFA program, but is instead working fifty-five hours a week. He knows where she recognizes him from – a friend of a friend – but enjoys the anonymity. She asks where he’s working and he tells her the name of the dormitory nearby.

He eats his scone and sips his espresso and reads pages from the book, but only his eyes see the words because his mind is wondering why that girl doesn’t remember where she recognizes him from. Last time he was there, she was the one who told him that they were introduced by Emma. He barely knows Emma as it is. But in a town of forty thousand students, it’s easy to not remember why you remember someone.

He leaves his plate on the table and folds his book up, and crosses the street back to the dorm. His head is clearer and his eyes focus better. On his way down the sidewalk he sees a man who used to live in the same apartment complex before he moved. The man looks at him for a second, then nods and says hi as they pass. He wonders if this man knows why he recognizes him.

Now it’s ten thirty and he heads to his office for the first time that day. Sitting by his keyboard is a card and a mug. He opens the card; it is signed by everyone on the staff with thanks. A giftcard falls out. The mug is decorated with a dark brown glaze around the rim and on it is written, “Jesse’s coffee runneth over…”

He smiles.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Author (A Superhero Vignette)

Scene opens: I’m on my old red racing bike, hanging over the front and wrapped around the ram horn handlebars. The street I am riding on is old - gravel shoulder, cracks, faded lines that I can’t tell if they are yellow or white. Genius strikes. “The Author.” A superhero. With superpowers! But he’s just an ordinary guy to. It’s perfect! I can’t believe how awesome it oh Jesus don't let that forest green Jetta clip you as it zooms by WAY TOO FAST FOR A FUCKING SIDESTREET.

"The Author?"

"Yeah man," I say as I climb into the booth at the coffee shop. I set down my mug, it steams and smells a bit sharp - the brewer needs to be cleaned. So does this table. Ew. I thought it was brown wood, but it’s actually just dirty white formica.

"But what are his powers?"

This is Colin chirping in. Colin is a dick and has longish hair in the front that he always swoops to the side. He also wears black framed glasses and bright t-shirts that are blue or red - today he’s wearing purple - and have some hip minimalist design and a band name on them. And he's a bit heavy. Fuck that, he's fat. Round faced, always lurking, bead of sweat on his upper lip.

"I dunno," I shrug. That's a lie. I do know.

"Shit, that concept sucks. No one will buy it if you don't even know what his powers are."

"Okay, I do know what his powers are. Get this - he has a pen and and a notebook, and anything he writes in it comes true."

"What do you mean, like that he wins the lottery? Dude, that sucks."

I told you Colin was a dick.

"No, like, he could make a dragon appear if he wrote 'Then a dragon appeared.'" As I say "dragon appear" I stretch out my arms like I'm showing off how big a fish is. This is to illustrate the dragon - I am trying to show Colin I mean business.

"That's pretty powerful. What are his weaknesses?"

"Well, he's just a normal guy. And he's young, so inexperience. He can only manifest his powers through writing and he's hotheaded and impulsive."

"I still think it sucks," Colin says, and leans back in the booth. "I'm hungry, you want a cookie?"

I sip at my coffee. It tastes all right for how it smells - I think it’s African, but the brewers definitely need to be cleaned.

Colin stands up and walks to the counter to get a cookie. Missie - the short dark haired girl with pockmarked cheeks - is working the cash register. Colin leansup against the counter and smiles at her. I watch this over my right shoulder, but then turn back around and look out the big window to my left. Two cars drive by - a minivan and an SUV. Shit. He was right. The Author does suck. Back to the drawing board.

“Let’s work with this,” Colin says nibbling at a cookie. The crumbs fall onto his shirt. I hate him now. “Is it a magical notebook? Is the pen magical? How does this work?”

“No, it’s his power. He can use any notebook and any pen. It just fucking manifests, I dunno.”

Colin bites his lip and looks down at the table. He looks back up at me.

“This is workable. But have you ever thought about going the indie route?”

I look back to him. His round fat face. His fucking fat piggie wiggie oink oink fat face. His beady eyes, his fucking thick lips and that goddamn sweat bead mustache.

“What do you mean?”

“Well...”

The fat fuck almost spits when he talks. I can almost smell the ham on him.

“Shit dude, you always try to go the superhero route. You think you’re goddamn Alan Moore. But you’re not Alan Moore. You’re fucking Oscar Moody, a creative writing dropout from a major university who cries himself to sleep at night because he can’t fucking write a book. Why don’t you write a comic about that? Do nonfiction - it’s all anybody wants to read these days anyway. Remember James Frey? Everyone read the shit out of that book until they found out like a fourth of it was made up. And you can use your imagination in this goddamned comic anyway. Why not pretend that YOU’RE The Author? You probably do in real life anyway.”

I hate him. But fuck, he’s got a point. And he’s my illustrator, so if he doesn’t sign on - I’ve got nothing. And then I realize. It’s genius. He’s brilliant. I love him. I love his double chin. I love the rolls of fat poking through his too tight t-shirt. I pull out my notebook and I begin to scribble. Colin takes another bite of his cookie and looks back to the counter. Missie bobs her head side to side to the music. Her hair is pulled back into two short spikey pigtails. I take notes. A star is born. Genius strikes.




This should be noted: I’m a horrible drawer. I cannot draw. I have taken many drawing classes in high school and it should be known that I got A’s in those classes. But those classes were about trying. Not being good at drawing. My sketchbook looks horrible. Page after page is scratched out boxes arranged haphazardly with stick figures and every fourth page or so there’s an egg shaped head and two blots made by a sharpie for eyes. I am a terrible drawer. And that’s the hardest part. As a comic book artist, you create a portfolio. You have a big folder full of all the shit you’ve drawn. You show this to people and they give you jobs that pay you monies. When you write comic books, in order for someone to want to give you monies they want to see a book you’ve written. But if you don’t have anything published, you can’t show them a book that you’ve written and then they won’t give you monies adn you can’t keep doing this because no on is giving you monies.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Grow Your Own Mustache - The Dick DeGraw Way!

All right now, I've heard enough bullshittin' and bellyachin' from the lot o' you. All this talk 'bout not gettin' enough pussy and shit. Now I've got me an answer for your bitchin' - you got no mustache. That's right, I said it. Ain' nothin' get them panties slick like a big ol' handlebar. Jus' the thought of those coarse hairs rubbin' against that shaved pussy'll make them ladies wish they were wearin' a diaper instead of that black lacey thong.

I've heard the bitchin', and I know what half you gone say. "But I ain' gotta mustache, and I ain' able to grow one." Normally I'd say "Tough shit, go fuck your own asshole with a cucumber, faggot." But that don't work 'cause most of those gays got bigger mustaches than you'll ever be able to grow anyway.

You doubtin' me? Well listen t'this. See, I'm at the bar, restin' casually on my elbow with my sunglasses, gold tooth, and of course Ol' Trusty ridin' my lip. There's some big-tittied blonde in a tube top and Daisy Dukes over in some booth with them silky legs crossed, and she catches a glimpse of the shine off my tooth. I got one hand wrapped around a bottle o' Jack and th' other's thumbin' my belt buckle, puttin' out the prize. Then it’s just a twitch with my upper lip and send that bushy mustache o’ mine wigglin’ an’ she’s on her way over. They all come to me. An' then I'm 'bout ready to make dick-ke-bobs out of that snatch.

If you don't have a 'stache like mine, then you're shit outta luck. She'll come over if you've got a fancy watch, but then she's gonna be askin' questions, an' lemme tell you, talkin' ain' what you want her lips to be doing. If you don't got the money - maybe the watch was a gift - then you're fucked. Comprende?

Movin' along. I got a solution for all y'all that cain't grow a snatch saddle. It ain't gonna be easy, it's gone hurt like a bitch, but when you're bathin' in the pussy juice, you won't have anything to complain about. Now sit the goddamned-piss-fuck down and listen in.

Simple process really, just gonna need a few things. First off, you need a dark living room and a huge ass TV. You need some burgers and fries and chicken wings, but those are just backup. What you really need is a five foot high platter of steak. You're also gonna need some PBR, whiskey, or Coors Lite if you’re a sissy sack of shit. To warm up, I suggest starting with a burger and a porn tape. Something tame, maybe a women's prison with a feisty guard. You gone eat that burger and watch that tape. Then it's on to the heavy stuff. I'm talkin' Ultimate Fighting, I'm talkin' World's Strongest Man, I'm talkin' professional wrestlin' and bowling. You watch that shit, you eat that steak, and you visualize that goddamned mustache growing. You feel those tingles underneath the skin on that lip and you know it's time. PUSH MOTHERFUCKER, PUSH! You give birth to that mustache. You eat that steak, and you grow that 'stache. The pizza and fries are for later. Them's for recovery. I'd recommend six to seven hours of football and hockey.

Now you're ready. Remember what I told you? Lean up against that bar, throw out the sign - belt buckle, gold tooth, whatever - and wait for that big tittied blonde in them Daisy Dukes to start walking over. When she reaches up and tugs and that 'stache and your lip tugs with it, she knows that them pussy-eatin’ handlebars ain’t goin’ nowheres, you’ll have her buck-nekkid on her back in that Motel 6 bed in no time, fuckin’ the shit outt her, and I’ll be there too with my bushy mustache, gold tooth and belt buckle, watchin’ from the corner. You just be sure that when you dump your load in her cum dumpster that you look over and acknowledge me in the armchair, Richard “Dick” DeGraw, the man that got you pussy tonight.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Statistic

The elevator led straight to the double doors. I stepped off the tile onto the thin hospital carpet, and then waited so Lena and Amanda could walk past me. They'd been here before. And I still didn't know why the hell I was there.

The walls were white on top and about waist high they were painted gray down to the flecked blue carpet. Neutral tones. We stepped into the first set of doors, and stood around, like in an airlock. Lena, a roundish, dark haired, eighteen year old Eastern European immigrant was fiddling with her belt on her jeans. She didn't know if we were going to have to remove our belts this time. Amanda was even rounder, had pink skin and wavy blonde hair with a piggish nose. She was wearing an ill-fitting white tanktop. I knew Lena from a few classes I had with her, and by the way she would make intense eye contact when she talked to me and ask droning questions about my personal life at innappropriate times, I could tell she had a thing for me. Amanda I knew from a different class, but I wasn't aware that Lena and Amanda were friends.

A nurse in a white coat came through the second set of doors after Amanda pressed the buzzer, and she handed us a clipboard with signatures and empty lines below them.

"Please sign in on the clipboard. Also, if you have any sharp objects, I'll take them now."

When I heard those words, I finally had a good idea that we were going into a suicide watch ward. The night before, Lena approached me at an event in one of the gyms and asked me if we wanted to go visit Katie in the hospital, but wouldn't say why she was there. I assumed the worse, and the nurse had just reasserted my assumptions.

I handed her a small black pen knife that I had in my pocket. She didn't say anything about belts though, so when the nurse smiled at us and led us through the airlock, we all had the leather straps wrapped around our waists, still holding up our jeans.

Right through the doors opened up into the main lobby of the ward. To the right was the rounded reception desk like a half circle with a back wall leading into some back room. To the left was an open public space, with tables in the corner surrounded by windows on both walls and a couch and TV directly to the left where we walked into the ward.

"Katie's room's this way," Lena said. It was the first thing any one of us had said since we entered the automatic glass doors at the front of the hospital. Walking through the parking lot, of course, was when Lena first mentioned belts, making my stomach drop.

We followed behind Lena, her jeans cutting just a bit into her sides at her waist, causing the extra skin to billow out a bit. Her hair had auburn highlights and dropped down her back in flowing curls. I never wanted to admit it, but I always found her to be extremely sexually attractive even though the word was that she got around. I think that contributed to my attraction to her, the thought of her experience, but it was also what kept me from ever making a move.

Katie, however, was the opposite. Katie was tall and wiry with short, dyed, light brown hair that was always stringy. She hard a sharp, short nose and thin lips and cheeks, but had these eyes that sparkled and seemed to smile on their own. I couldn't tell you what color they were, I just knew they were dark, almost black, and warm and inviting. She had an innocence about her, the way she giggled and smiled a lot. I had a philosophy class with her and Lena, and her and Lena had been friends since high school.

I didn't how to expect Katie to be. With a demeanor like hers, it was hard to imagine something driving her towards a suicide attempt. But I wasn't naive. In junior high school, my friend tied a belt around his neck and shut himself in his closet when he found out the girl he was dating on the internet for over a year wasn't who he thought she was. And I wasn't too surprised that Lena brought me. I'm a good natured person, easy to talk to, kind and gentle. I high school, I got a call one night from a guy I knew while he was at the hospital. He had just tried to commit suicide and didn't know who to call, so he looked up my phone number. Both Steve and Kyle were still Steve and Kyle. The attempted suicide didn't change that. They were both people who needed attention and understanding. They also both suffered from what I call "suburban outsider syndrome." The particular subculture they emulated encouraged negative emotions and suicide as an option. I was unsure about Katie. Amateur psychiatry offered no quotable phrase, no diagnosis.

I was nervous to see her. We all walked in a single file line, Lena in her burgundy tank top in front, Amanda in back, and me in the middle. For months I had admired Katie from the other side of the class room, only to have Lena make another drunk pass at me when I would run into her on a Friday night. I never really had ever talked to Katie.

"It'll be good for her to see someone else from class," Lena said to me when she approached me about the visit the night before. From how close she was standing to me and the way she was sticking out her chest, I had an idea why she invited me along.

Inside Katie's room, Katie was sitting on her bed in elastic waistband pajama pants and a gray hooded sweatshirt, the tie strings missing from the rivets at the edges of the hood. The bed closest to the window was empty. Her roommate was out for the moment.

"Hi!" Katie shouted when we walked in.

She bounced off of her bed and grabbed Lena in a big hug, and then rotated and leaned over and hugged Amanda lightly. She straightened up and looked at me with her dark eyes and said, "Thanks for coming!"

All I could do was smirk back.

And then I went numb. The girls started chatting, Katie said she didn't really like her roommate, who was an older lady, and Lena said that our philosophy teacher would definitely give Katie some extra time for the paper due the next week. They kept talking, and I know this is going to sound cliche, I really do, but it all seemed like everything was happening underwater. It's easy to read that statement and not feel it, but it's difficult to experience it firsthand. Every sound bubbles and floats away, every word is incomprehensible but you still understand what they're talking about. It feels cold and refreshing but you're not aware that you're breathing at all. And then all three of them are walking out the door to the common room, the one with all the windows and sunlight. And you follow.

"What do you want to do?" one of them asks.

"I dunno, let's play a board game," another one says.

And then you're all sitting around a square table moving colorful pieces around a colorful board, and you look up, and Katie smiles at you, and then it's time to leave but you just got there, and you're back in the airlock and the nurse places a black pen knife into the palm of your hand and you squeeze it once, feeling the nicked plastic against your palm before you shove it in the front pocket of your pants and you're on the elevator and it's bright and fluorescent in there and there might be two other people in the elevator with you but now you're walking out the front door and there's a huge rush of air and I am stepping onto the concrete sidewalk and the air penetrates deep into my lungs and I stepped down off the curb after Lena and Amanda, and I watch as they walked over towards Amanda's maroon Buick. I followed them and climbed into the backseat.

"I was out for a smoke when I guess she sent me the instant message," Lena said as she pulled the seatbelt down across her large chest.

"Really?" Amanda asked as she turned the key and the Buick rattled to life.

"Yeah," Lena said as the Buick pulled out of the parking lot. "I had just gotten back and I was working on a paper on my computer up in my room when I ran downstairs for a cigarette. When I got back I saw she typed to me and it said something like 'if it happened again i'm going to do it.'"

"I didn't think she actually would," Amanda said as the Buick pulled out onto the highway.

"Well I was at the same party earlier, but I had to leave to do this paper. She looked really drunk and was like falling all over the place. But she didn't have that much to drink, so someone must have put something in her drink. I just can't believe that it could happen to her twice."

And my toes curled up, pinching my socks digging into my shoes.

"I can't believe it either."

And my heart broke. The girl with the smiling dark eyes and small mouth had been raped, twice. My heart broke not for the sympathy I had for her, but because I was now powerless. I was no longer the go to guy with the soothing response, the smiling, knowing, easy to talk to comforter. I was nothing. I was nothing because the girl I never talked to but always wanted to had been raped twice at our small in the middle of nowhere Catholic liberal arts institution. And I knew that I could never talk to her, I could never try to ask her out because I would know that she had been raped, and that I couldn't do anything about it.

As the Buick cruised down the road, Lena sang along to Depeche Mode and AC/DC, taking the time to turn back to me and quiz me about both bands and whether or not I like their music. I spent the time thinking about statistics. When you hear about rape on a college campus, it's just a statistic. One in four. There are campaigns, though, women saying things like "I'm not a statistic, I'm a person. I'm a woman." But Katie wasn't a person anymore to me, she became a statistic. She was a one in four, she was a twenty to twenty five percent. And I was a statistic too. I was just another asshole, one in three, trying to pretend that rape didn't exist.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Strip #8


The Strip #8, originally uploaded by Dreadnaut Comix.

My library only has a few different colors of book spines; what of it?

The Strip #7


The Strip #7, originally uploaded by Dreadnaut Comix.

In which our fair hero recycles the image of himself one more time and learns how to draw a bus.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Letters

"Did it come?"

"Nah."

"Oh."

"Maybe tomorrow."

"Yeah. Nervous?"

"No, well, I guess, yeah. A bit nervous."

"You shouldn't be. You know you got in."

". . ."

"You're the only one with that kind of experience."

"There's probably plenty out there with my kind of experience."

"Maybe. But I'm sure you got it. Just check back tomorrow."

"Yeah, I'll just check tomorrow."

Monday, April 9, 2007

The Strip # 6


The Strip # 6, originally uploaded by Dreadnaut Comix.

Because we all know that I'm surrounded by idiots.

The Strip #5


The Strip #5, originally uploaded by Dreadnaut Comix.

In response to the Modern Dance piece that was choreographed to "Nevermind."

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Strip #4


The Strip #4, originally uploaded by Dreadnaut Comix.

And yet again, the character version of me looks oddly familiar. What can you do? Strip number four brings up the idea that everyone sucks but me.

The Strip #3


The Strip #3, originally uploaded by Dreadnaut Comix.

Crappily drawn a week before it had a plot and without rulers, episode number three brings up the ethical question - is it okay to cut and paste drawings in Photoshop in order to make sure that the character doesn't look like a goon?

The Strip #2


The Strip #2, originally uploaded by Dreadnaut Comix.

The second installment of punknews.comic! No background info needed, but can you guess who the Bearded Gentleman is? Hint: he's a real person and you probably don't know him but you should.

The Strip #1


The Strip #1, originally uploaded by Dreadnaut Comix.

The first strip of punknews.comic! The concept is lost without back story. This was taken from a news report from Eddy County in one of the Dakotas. The deputy in this photo is describing what an "emo" looks like.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Unfortunate Tale of Jerky McAssface

Despite having an unfortunate name, Jerky McAssface was a normal, regular boy. He enjoyed playing in the dirt, crucifying small animals, and smoking cigarettes in the lavatory when his teacher's weren't around. He never took off his schoolboy uniform which included a shirt, a jacket, a tie, and short pants (as in "back when I was still in short pants). His dreams were to someday be famous. So he made a plan.

After dinner the other night, Jerky McAssface snuck out his window and climbed down the gnarled bare tree branches until his feet hit the soft grass with a perfect gymnast's dismount. His Irish father, the cocksucker that he was, was drunk off of Irish whiskey, still at the dinner table. This is because this story must rely on stereotypes in order to be told in a quick enough fashion. (Jerky's mother died in a horrible plot device and was heard shouting out to Jerky, "I'll always be dead to you so that you have something to mourn in order to give your life purpose in this story!" before her ashes were blown away into the wind, out over the sparkling blue Atlantic Ocean.)


Now as Jerky stumbled down the cobblestone streets of town, he thought to himself about how he might become the most famous. He thought at first, why, of course, Jesus is the most famous man to our Western world. He must become Jesus! But no, that'll never do. One simply can't just become another!

So then, he thought, I must figure out why Jesus was so bleedin' popular. Jerky pored over these thoughts in his head, and came up with a solution. Jesus was famous because he died! The crucification! Of course! But Jesus wasn't just an ordinary bloke. He were famous, that he were. Also, Jerky would like to live through his fame, not burn out as a martyr.

Then, as Jerky skipped past a particularly bright brass spear store, he realized his true calling. Jerky McAssface himself would crucify the Christ! It's so simple! In order to be famous, he'd just have to become the murderer! And he already had the practice, since one of the hobbies that I'd mentioned earlier was crucifying small animals (Funny how that works out, right? A pure coincidence!)

Then some Romans came by and fucked his shit up with some brass spearz, 'cause man, DON'T fuck with the Romans. Killing Jesus was their shit, and they will FUCK you up for bringing that bizz-nass down to the street town, word?

Monday, March 5, 2007

Dreadnaut Episode #8


Dreadnaut Episode #8, originally uploaded by Dreadnaut Comix.

Plot device. Better episodes coming soon.

Dreadnaut Episode #7


Dreadnaut Episode #7, originally uploaded by Dreadnaut Comix.

Notice the lack of outside border around the frames. Usually there's a border. That's all part of the existential experience.

Org Toons #0


Org Toons #0, originally uploaded by Dreadnaut Comix.

A bonus strip that was the demo for punknews.comic. Aren't you glad I made a new one for punknews.org instead of posting this thing?

Things That Go Bump In My Head

There's a noise. There's a noise and my eyes snap open, but it's so dark that I can' t see anything, and I'm in bed, naked, with the sheets up to my bare chest. Or there was a noise. At least I'm pretty sure there was a noise. It was deep, loud, a big WHUMP.

I get out of bed, and the air is cold, dead. The air is empty, lifeless. I know I can't see the bed, or the doorframe just in front of me, but I know that they are there. I can feel everything around me, on my skin cold and clammy. But I can't feel anything. There is nothing there. I know I am staring down the dark hallway from my bedroom into the kitchen, but I know there is nothing there.

I can still hear the noise echoing in my head.

WHUMP.

I know that there has to be something out there, things that go bump in the night. Unmentionables, unknowables. Goblins, critters, faeries and imps. Horrid demons, drug-crazed rapists and sadist murderers.

WHUMP.

I know that there is something at the end of the hallway. It echoes in my mind. I hear my lady stir, still in bed, rolling over. The rustle of the sheets against her own naked body, and then she rubs her knees together safe under the sheet. But my naked body is open, defenseless, standing open in the dead cold air of our apartment with tensed thigh muscles and clenched fists. What is out there?

WHUMP.

It still echoes in my head, thundering one more time before the noise fades and all I can hear is the fan still blowing in the corner, a light whirring. Did anyone else in the building hear it? Is there an uncountable number of duplications - naked men in their twenties standing in their mirrored bedrooms while their lady is still safe in bed, remembering or almost imagining a noise?

A pause.

My own heavy breathing.

No more noise.

I step backwards, shuffle my feet. My knees bump into the bed, and I lift the sheet and crawl under it. My lady shifts to her side, then slides up next to me, naked and warm. I'm so cold her skin feels like liquid fire. She moans a little in her sleep, and closes her eyes again, while I stare up at the blackness where I know there should be a ceiling.

And then.

Was it all in my mind?

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Waiting

He put his pen down on his desk, neatly perpendicular to the ruler, the black permanent marker, and the pencil. He stared at the four straight lines, adjusted them slightly, and then nodded as if to show approval. Then his eyes drifted upwards towards the glowing computer screen.

"I'll wait," he said to himself.

No reason to get all uppity about it, I can just wait until it arrives and then I'll have something to show for it, he thought.

But he waited, and waited another day, and still it did not arrive. He knew it wouldn't, but waited for it anyway, and his pen sat perpendicular to his ruler, his black permanent marker, and his pencil.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Dreadnaut Episode #6


Dreadnaut Episode #6, originally uploaded by Dreadnaut Comix.

Where's this story going? Keep tuned in!

Dreadnaut Episode #5


Dreadnaut Episode #5, originally uploaded by Dreadnaut Comix.

Oh man! Five total COMIX!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The History of Music as Told to Beth Hanson Over Dinner

"You see, Beth, it started with just cavemen thunking on logs. Drums! Brilliant, right? Oh, you gotta try this garlic bread. I know it's just garlic bread, but godDAMN it's amazing. So drum logs. Some caveman in a bear skin just started jamming one day, keeping time with the rhythm of his own heart. Never changing or faltering, just thump-ump-bump-ump thump-ump-bump-ump and one day another caveman came up to him and just started howling. Wailing, really. And he invented singing. Four years later and after the invention of electricity, the cavemen dug up a bass guitar. It was ancient and fossilized, brought down to earth by aliens and left behind. Well, they were able to chisel out a body and neck from a tree, and then they developed the forge and made steel strings for it. Amplifier technology had been available for ten years.

"Oh, this MOTHERFUCKIN' spaghetti! Oh CHRISTBITCH! No, I'm not talking about you. Just an expression, Beth dear. So they had drums and singing and a bass, so the singer took up the new instrument, plunking down only basic jazz chords and walking bass lines at first. They figured they'd be a jazz duo, 'cause the drummer caveman found some bushes that he turned into brushes. And while they were casting strings, they cast some cymbals too or some shit. I don't remember. I'm so stoned right now.

"But then the aliens visited again, and gave them a fuckin' NEW invention, the electric guitar! Spacetime and lightspeed travel had allowed them to develop SIX string technology. And the aliens gave them Iggy fuckin' Stooge and the band became the STOOGES and they fuckin' ROCKED YOUR SHIT. SO DON'T COME TO ME ALL LIKE 'OH, MR. RECORD EXEC PLEASE SIGN MY ROCK 'N ROLL BAND' 'CAUSE YOUR LITTLE 'BAND' AIN'T ROCK 'N ROLL YOU SHIT BITCH. ROCK 'N ROLL IS MADE BY FUCKING CAVEMEN AND OUTERSPACE ALIENS. DID YOU DEVELOP THE FORGE AND THEN CAST YOUR OWN STRINGS? NO? MY POINT EXACTLY. Oh shit, this mescaline is wearing off. Be a dear now and give me a good bit of a rubdown. That's a darling, now let's talk singles."

Dreadnaut Episode #4


Dreadnaut Episode #4, originally uploaded by Dreadnaut Comix.

Holy Comix!

Dreadnaut Episode #3


Dreadnaut Episode #3, originally uploaded by Dreadnaut Comix.

Wow! Comix!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Dreadnaut Episode #2


Dreadnaut Episode #2, originally uploaded by Dreadnaut Comix.

Comix updated NOW!

Oh, you missed it.

Dreadnaut Episode #1


Dreadnaut Episode #1, originally uploaded by Dreadnaut Comix.

New comix whenever.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Teenage Kicks

"Shit," he said.

"Turn it up."

"Nah, it's fucked."

"What do you mean fucked?"

"I mean, it's FUCKED. Doneski."

"Aw, hell no," Darren cried, dropping his head back. "I paid two hunnered for that stereo last week."

"S'fucked. No... wait, oh, I got it!"

Caroyln hollered, raised her fist. Darren sighed and then glared at Steve, fiddling with the stereo. Rebecca was sitting on the couch with Dougie and Chris.

"Play that one!" Rebecca shouted from the couch.

"Which one?" Steve shouted back.

"The dance-one! I wanna dance!"

Smoke bounced against the ceiling of the basement, Steve pulled his cigarette from his mouth, exhaled from the side of his mouth and put it back, clinching it tight with his lips as he pulled a black 7" from its sleeve and shimmied it onto on the record player. Everyone leaned in towards the two three foot tall speakers against the corner of the dark basement. Two loud snare hits and then some guitars ripped out of the speakers. The Undertones, "Teenage Kicks."

"Woooo!" Rebecca shouted and she jumped up, grabbing Kris from the other side of Dougie. She and Kris were both wearing skirts and boots and slashed up t-shirts. They both had short died black hair and lots of studs and necklaces. Rebecca was taller though, longer legs. Kris was petite.

Carolyn swaggered up behind Steve and spun him around by his hips. Carolyn wore tight jeans and shaved her head. Steve had on black work pants and Chuck Taylors and a black sleeveless t-shirt. He shaved his head too. He grabbed Carolyn's hips and picked her up and swung her around. He was taller than Rebecca. Dougie sat stoned out of his mind on the couch. He had a huge beard and always wore a thick red and black flannel and one of those black watchmen's caps over his long hair. He was wondering what Chris saw in that tall dyke. If he wasn't so catatonic he would have been wishing that Chris was backing up, flipping her skirt at him as she sat down on his lap and starting grinding out a provocative display instead of shaking her head side to side and sliding around on the concrete dance floor with Rebecca. Darren danced by himself, sort of like Snoopy in those Peanuts cartoons. A lot of foot kicking, and then shaking yer head towards the ceiling, then shaking your head towards the floor while your arms stay still.

"I wanna hold her, wanna hold her tight, get teenage kicks right through the night, all right!" the stereo blurted. Carolyn spun her back to Steve and shimmied up against him. Rebecca and Chris twirled each other around, their skinny arms tangling as they twirled themselves around Darren, who continued dancing in his own way in between the two girls' arms.

"I'm gonna call her on the telephone, have her over 'cause I'm all alone."

Steve puffed on his cigarette and the cherry glowed. Dougie's head rolled back and he stared at the bouncing smoke next to the single 40 watt light bulb illuminating just a small cone of the basement.

"I wanna hold her, wanna hold her tight, get teenage kicks right through the night, all right!"

The guitars and drums prattled out the ending and everyone hollered. Two and half minutes of dancing, two and a half minutes of power and glory. Two and a half minutes of forgetting work the next morning, forgetting the destructive effects Steve's smoking will have on his lungs, forgetting their shitty apartments and the war over in the Middle East. Two and a half minutes of freedom.

"Put it on again," Chris shouted.

"Nah, it's too short, we'll have to just keep flipping it."

"Well, what else do we have to listen to?"

"Ramones, DEVO, shit, um, not too much good for dancing."

"Hold on," Steve said. "I've got the perfect record."

He flicked his cigarette butt into the ashtray on the coffee table. He stepped and leaned over the turntable, flipped some records, then dropped the needle again. The silent room waited, then two snare hits and the guitars kick in.

"Wooooooooo!" Dougie shouted, rising from the couch. "I love this shit, man!"

Rebecca and Chris shouted and each one grabbed one of Dougie's arms, and even though he was baked, he spun them around as The Undertones jammed "Teenage Kicks" again. Darren still danced his own way in his spot. Carolyn and Steve were doing their own version of the Twist, shaking their knees and twisting their hips, and the smoke from Steve's dead cigarette twisted upward from the ashtray on the coffee table, through the single cone of light in the dark basement, pluming out as it hit the basement ceiling.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Things that Go Bump On My Head

The brick landed hard.

At first I didn't feel anything, just the thump and the jerk in my neck. But then the pain receptors kicked it and it started stinging hard, and I could feel the warm, wet, sticky blood beginning to pool in my hair. My eyesight fuzzed out, and then all the dumpsters and fire escapes in the brick alley started swirling.

"Ah, FUCK!"

I didn't know who could've assaulted me. Or who would. Some gang bangers around the corner? Some assholes with a club? Oh shit, I thought. This is it. Mom told me I shouldn't have moved to Chicago.

My head twisted around, darting this way and that, looking all over for anyone. Was that a shadow of a cat or a thug with a nine? Is that a group of skinheads with pipes? But there was nothing. Nobody. Bright, sunny Chicago summer. Cool and shaded alley. Me and a bleeding head. So I looked up at the tenement building I was walking past. What did I see?

About six or seven crumbling loose bricks about three stories up at the edge of the roof.

"Fucking rotting city."

So I pulled out my handkerchief and dabbed the back of my head with it, turned around and went back to my shithole apartment. Fuck class, fuck college, fuck Chicago.

Fuck, my mom was right. I shouldn't have moved out here.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A Stimulating Conversation Carried Out During the Completion of a New York Times Crossword Puzzle

"Baseboard."

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah, eight letters."

"Baseboard is nine."

"Oh."

"By the way, darling, have you tried this coffee yet?"

"No, I haven't sipped it."

"It's divine."

"Well, I'm sure, you were behind the preparation."

"That's very well not what I meant. Thirty seven, catacombs? It's just a good roast."

"Guatamalan."

"Where, twenty-two up?"

"No, that's the roast. Guatamalan."

"Oh, I'm sorry. I thought you were talking about... oh, Garland. Twelve down is Garland. And Guatamalan is the country of origin, not the roast. The roast describes how long it was roasted for, you know."

"Oh."

"I know it's Guatamalan. But the roast is interesting, it's a tad bit lighter than usual."

"Really."

"Yes, really."

"No, ten down is really."

"Aha! Wonderful, darling."

"You're right about the coffee, it is nice."

"Hmmm..."

"Do you think... ten up?"

"Baroque."

"Excellent."

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Horrible Noise That The Tree Made When I Backed My Car Up Into It

It yelped.

Trees don't yelp.

I mean, I know trees are living. Plants are living. Algae is living. Fungus is living. All that stuff has life; I know this. I learned this in seventh grade. But plants don't yelp. Algae doesn't yelp, fungus doesn't yelp. Trees don't yelp.

But the tree yelped.

I can summarize the noises made. I turned the key; clink. The car started; vrrrroooom. I shifted into reverse; thup. The car rolled backward over the gravel driveway; krrrchkrrrchkrrcchh. It slipped off the side of the driveway; vrrgrrgghhhrghuppuppuppupp.
I hit the tree. It should have gone WHUMP. But it didn't. It went yelp.

Trees don't yelp.

Dogs yelp. Wives yelp. Daughters can yelp, and so can sons.

But not trees.

Trees don't yelp.

Unless...

Well.

Last night I read a story to the boy before he went to bed. In the story, the trees came to life to help a little lost boy in the woods. Those trees could talk. Those trees very well could yelp.

Problem solved.

I am just currently stuck in that story. But no yelping tree will make me late for work. And my wife and son agree. I see them in the window of the house. They have a horrified look on their faces. They must be worried that I hurt myself when I backed into that yelping tree. It's okay, I wave to them. I smile, and I pull forward. I turn around and pull out of the driveway. Silly wife, silly son. All worried about me. But no yelping tree in a story world that I'm stuck in is going to make me late for work. I'll just stop by the shop on the way home, and they'll check it all out for me. Fix the bumper.

Wait a minute.

Trees don't yelp.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Part of an Ongoing Piece, Part VI

After breakfast I moved my bags into the upstairs loft. Like the basement, the upstairs was just one big room that revolved around the open staircase. This room served as my parent’s bedroom for all the years that I lived and grew up in this house. There was one plain wooden dresser along one wall, and a kind size bed along the other, the stairwell splitting the room in two between them. The ceiling was pitched, since this room was more of an attic than an actual bedroom. But my favorite part (besides the burgundy carpet) was the old desk along the third wall, set right underneath the big octagonal window. It was large and rectangular, moreso just one large maple slab that was sanded down and re-stained and set atop four rectangular posts. It weighed a couple hundred pounds and was the first thing my father ever built himself. The second, of course, being this house and all the cabinetry and bookcases inside it. But it was at this desk where my father wrote all his revolutionary works. A living legend’s workspace, the birthplace of The Ice King and Solomon’s Burden.

Sometimes my father would sit me on his knee as he penned those pages in longhand, flipping the looseleaf sheets slowly and deliberately, placing them facedown upon their predecessor. As a kid, even sitting on my father’s knee, I was still only eye level with the desktop and couldn’t quite see the words that were penned. All I could see was my father’s forearm reaching around from behind my head and his hand flying over the paper, the pen delicately pinched between his thumb and forefinger. When he flipped the pages, I always thought they looked like sails on a big ship set to sea, billowing in the wind. When I was younger I imagined my father writing stories of pirates and sea battles, and I suppose it was from those sheets flipping at my eye level.

I emptied my one suitcase into the dresser, t-shirts and socks and pairs of jeans and long sleeved flannel shirts. I packed warm and comfortable clothes to prepare me for the winter. I was still wearing khakis and my blue shirt and red tie from the office. I hadn’t changed since the morning before when I left for the office of the magazine that I worked on. I filed for leave, citing time to concentrate on writing my first novel, and they graciously granted me until June of the next year. I didn’t tell them that really, honestly, the reason I left was because I was afraid bombs and poison gas in the subways. Biological warfare released on the streets from strafing jet planes.

Part of an Ongoing Piece, Part V

We were all scared. The whole damn nation was shuddering and wringing their palms like the socially challenged villain in a movie. The first few bombs were a direct hit. We watched the city erupt into pockets of flame on live television. Public approval was low, and there was only one word on everyone’s mine: retaliation. Not since September 11th, not since Pearl Harbor – America has been free of rampant warfare, of invading forces and massive bombing campaigns. But we all watched, hunkered close to our televisions as the first bombs dropped and leveled that city. Only none of us knew if the war was over or if it just begun.

The same morning that I woke up rubbing the lump on the back of my head was the same morning that the town began sandbagging the two roads that go through it. As I was crawling up onto my knees, the townspeople were stacking sandbags on the asphalt. As I started my way up the stairs to the smell of bacon, Fat Joseph, the butcher, was standing with his hands on his hips in his white apron, overseeing two high schoolers named Ted and Josh. While my eyes were adjusting to the bright light of the kitchen, Mrs. Saunders, the music teacher at school who gave piano lessons on the side, was sitting in folding chair, watching the event like it was on television.

Ira was at the stove, stirring the bacon as it bubbled in the greasy pan. He was still wearing the same white t-shirt and khakis, although he might have taken them off before he went to sleep. Then again, he might not have.

“You’re up,” he said, facing the stove.

“Yeah,” I said back to him.

“Bacon. Put some meat on your bones.”

Ira was referencing the fact that he was always a bit huskier than I was. Growing up, I was sort of scrawny, and the fact that I turned vegetarian later on in life didn’t help me “bulk up” the way that Ira always wanted me to. Ira belongs to a certain mindset where being a man is important, and there are certain ways a man should act and look. Certain feelings that are pre-destined. My father prescribed to the same philosophy, the Hemingway Syndrome I called it when I was growing up. I never understood why a man had to be a man if he was just going to sit at a typewriter and talk about his feelings.

“I’m a vegetarian, you know,” I said to Ira.

Ira ignored me and flipped each piece of marbled bacon over with the tongs.

“Ah, my boys,” my father said from behind me, wheeling himself out of his bedroom.

In his wheelchair, he looked sick. All those years of pan fried bacon and hefty steaks and cholesterol left his heart weak and small. I could almost feel it struggling to beat through his wrinkled grey skin, undershirt, and grey woolen sweater.

“Dad,” Ira said from the stove. “Did you know that one of your sons is a vegetarian?”

Dad looked up at me, winked and smiled, and said, “Well why are you making bacon if you’re not going to eat any?”

“No, not me,” Ira said as he whipped around, tongs in hand. “I was talking about…”

He stopped when he saw the smile on our father’s face.

“Oh, real funny.”

“Make Lee some oatmeal, he can have oatmeal can’t he?” Dad said to Ira, wheeling himself past me through the kitchen towards the dining room. “I should be having some oatmeal too, anyway, you know, with this bum ticker of mine.”

“Dad, I can make oatmeal for us,” I said.

“With a bruise like that on your cheek,” my father said, “I think Ira owes you a meal.”

And then he disappeared into the dining room.

“Sorry I hit you,” Ira said.

“Sorry I called you a mess.”

The bacon hissed and popped.

“We’re all just wired, you know? On edge. I guess we’re all just scared.”

“Well, you don’t have to worry, nothing’s going to happen.”

“If you’re so sure, then why’d you leave the city?”

I opened my mouth to speak but then let my jaw shut slowly when I realized I had no good answer. Ira folded his arms letting the tongs hang down from his right hand, leaving grease spots on the left side of his shirt.

“Like I said, we’re all scared. That’s why they’re sandbagging the roads.”

He pointed with the tongs in his right hand to the window over the sink, and I walked over to the sink and peered out the window. It was a bright morning, and down the hill in the distance I could see small figures laying sandbags out, forming little walls so that cars would have to zig-zag around them in order to enter town.

“Go sit down with Dad,” Ira said. “I’ll make you both some oatmeal.”

Part of an Ongoing Piece, Part IV

After dinner, Dad turned the TV off, and Ira pushed him back into his bedroom, leaving me with the dirty bowls on the TV trays. The living room was dark but Ira flipped on a bedside lamp when he wheeled Dad into his room. From across the living room, I looked through the doorway at Ira leaning over and scooping his hands under Dad’s armpits and hoisting him up out of his chair and laying him down in his bed. It was like watching the scene through a window from outside of the house. It felt like it would even be warmer in there than it was in the living room. I picked up the bowls and walked through the dining room to the kitchen, and set them in the sink. I turned on the water when I heard, “Hey,” from behind me.

It was Ira, in a half whisper, pulling the door to the study shut behind him as he stepped into the kitchen. He looked tired. Not just the bags under his eyes, but the lack of color in his cheeks. He didn’t look well.

“Just save those for the morning,” Ira said, stuffing his hands down into his pants pockets. “The old man’s asleep, you know?”

I turned towards him and nodded. Ira nodded his head to the left, at the stairs down, a signal to follow him. He turned and trotted down them, and I followed. The stairs creaked loudly each time my shoes pressed on to them.

The basement was just how I left it when I moved out to go to boarding school when I was twelve. It was just a big square room with cinder blocks for walls and concrete for a floor. It was covered by black fake bear skin rugs, and the other twin bed – Ira’s bed - was shoved into the back left corner. Other than that there were a couple of those striped canvas folding chairs and a foldable card table in the center of the room, and there was Ira’s old army surplus duffel bag spilling it’s guts out onto the bear skin rug by his bed.

“Dad’s sick, you know,” Ira said over his shoulder, walking towards his bed.

“I know,” I said back quietly.

“What?” he asked, spinning on his heel and staring me down.

“I said, ‘I know,’” I barked back at him.

“Then where have you been?” he growled, taking a step towards me.

I didn’t have an excuse or a good response so I took a step forward. This was the wrong thing to do. Ira was like a snarling dog. If you moved towards the dog, it will spring on you and attack, and if you retreat it’ll take off and chase you down, but if you square off against a dog, it won’t lunge. I took another step forward. Part of me just wanted to get punched in the mouth.

“HUNH?” he shouted. “What the fuck, Lee? WHAT the fuck.”

His head was tilted sideways and he was staring at the ground. A bad sign. Crazy people don’t look you in the eye, and I wasn’t sure what mental state Ira was in. I took another step forward, and now he was in arms length.

“Look,” I started putting my hands up to show I was unarmed, “Look, let’s just…”
And then I was on the floor. I didn’t even see him raise his arm. My left cheek started to throb and my vision was blurry. Fuck, I thought. That didn’t work.

“Aw, shit, aw God – Goddamnit!”

I angled my head up a bit and Ira was pacing back and forth at my feet.

“I’m…look – here, I’m sorry,” he grumbled, then leaned over me and held out his hand. I took it, and he pulled me up to my feet and brushed off the shoulders of my shirt.

“I’m a little on edge, you know? Since mom died. Drugs, man, I’ve – look, I’ve been taking a lot of pills since I’ve been home, so…uh, sorry.”

“You’re a mess,” I said. It was the wrong thing to say but I said it.

“Man, FUCK you!” he shouted.

His arms flew up and shoved me in my chest, sending me reeling three steps until I tripped on the edge of one of the fake bear skin rugs and fell backwards – just at the bottom of the stairs, my head whipping back and nailing the concrete so hard that when I opened my eyes, it was already morning.

Part of an Ongoing Piece, Part III

The house itself was a cavern. Inside it was always dark, damp. When I walked into the front door, right in front of me was the large wooden staircase that goes straight up. To the left was the dining room, with a big rectangular oak table over a red patterned rug. Here is where my father kept large cabinets full of my mother’s china. These cabinets were lined up along the walls, like watchful sentries guarding the dining room table. Through the dining room led to the kitchen in the back, with black and white tile and standard counters that ran the length of the wall. Off the kitchen and directly below the staircase upward were the stairs that led to the basement. This is where Ira had made his dwelling. Next to the stairs down was the bathroom, long and skinny, it made up the rest of the middle of the house with the staircases. Through the side of the kitchen was the den that was converted into my father’s bedroom when he got sickly. The carpet was thick and a dirty brown, and bookcases lined most of the walls, though most of the books were gone. Dad had regarded himself a scholar and a collector of old books, but he had started selling them on the Internet one by one so mom wouldn’t have to work and could devote her time to taking care of Dad. In the middle of the room was my old twin bed from when I was younger. Ira and I used to share the entire basement as one bedroom, and the master bedroom was upstairs. Through the den was the living room, complete with television and couch, which currently held Ira hunched over a TV tray and Dad’s easy chair where he had a napkin tucked into his shirt collar. The living room completes the walkthrough, because it connects back to the front hall.

“Get yours and Dad’s food from the kitchen,” Ira said hunched over his tray and a bowl. “It’s all on the counter. I made red beans and rice, ‘cause we need more groceries.”

I nodded and walked back through Dad’s bedroom, the den, to the kitchen, but my curiosity got the best of me. As a kid, I was mesmerized by Dad’s book collection. Large leather and cloth bound volumes, green and red and orderly standing tall on the bookshelves. It was these books that made me decide that I needed to be a writer when I grew up. I would pull them down from the bookshelves and lay them in my lap, flipping the thick pages one by one as I sat in the reading chair in the den. I wasn’t able to read them, and even if I was, I wouldn’t be able to understand them. Crime and Punishment, Moby Dick – these are books I’ve never read but pored over day by day. I became obsessed with the words, not what they said or what they meant, but just the look of them. Tracing my chubby index finger across them line by line. And now they were gone. All that was left was a ratty copy of The Great Gatsby and a few nameless volumes that speckled the shelves – original pressings of his own works. I shook my head as I turned on my heel towards the kitchen, where I saw a pot of the stove and two bowls with spoons on the counter next to them.

Part of an Ongoing Piece, Part II

My brother told me that the funeral was pretty standard. Relatives showed up in black and gray and some in white, stood around in dresses and suits, some cried, they lowered the casket, and then my brother drove my Dad up the hill to the old house. It was wood paneled with a low sloping roof and square windows. As kids my brother and I used to pretend it was a fort. Our little hill gave us such a solid vantage point over the rest of the town. You could see everything from that hill – all the little houses in the valley snaked together tightly by little town streets. And the row of rectangular stores lining main street. And all the people. My brother said that on that day, after he helped Dad into the house, he looked down at all the houses in the valley. Everything looked grey and cold. All the people were just slowly moving lines of color along main street. All the cars were floating by. And above the drug store, the American flag flapped loosely in the wind.

He called me the day of the funeral, which was the day after he drove home. He told me the situation, about how mom had died in a car accident, and probably shouldn’t have been driving at her age anyway, but she went out for Dad’s medication and her car went skidding through an intersection, got T-boned by a high schooler in a Ford, and how she was just gone in an instant. People said that my father’s sickness had run her so ragged that she was just like a rubber band stretched too tight. Pluck it too hard and it just snaps and ceases to function as what it was created for. A rubber band was created to hold things together. My mother was created to hold my father together. And my brother, being the more responsible one, being the one closest to home, was called upon to take our mother’s place in caring for our father.

I left the day after the day that the first bombs dropped. Within a day of the war starting, my apartment in the city didn’t feel like a very safe place anymore, so I packed up my old minivan with a couple of duffel bags, shut the hatch tight, and left the big city for home.

Dad and Ira were waiting for me on the porch with the front door open as my minivan wound up the long gravel driveway up the hill and settled next to Ira’s old Pontiac. Ira was standing with his hand on Dad’s shoulder, Dad sitting in the wheelchair with his hands politely on his lap. Both had a day’s worth of scruff on their faces, Ira’s nearly black and Dad’s nearly white, but both had the same sharp nose and warm brown eyes.

“They’re dropping bombs,” my father called to me from the front porch.

“I know,” I called back, as I circled around the van to the back hatch. My shoes crunched on the gravel and my red tie blew loosely in the wind.

“We’re not in the city any more,” my Dad called to me. “Why don’t you loosen that noose a bit.”

I circled the knot on my tie with my fist and grasped it tight, gave it two tugs, and it slid down an inch. I unbuttoned the top button on my shirt and with the release I took my first clear breath of Small Town air. Not entirely pure and clean, but crisp and warm, even in autumn.

Ira stepped down from the porch and made his way towards the minivan. He was wearing a white v-neck t-shirt and slim khakis with running shoes. His hair was long and dark an unruly – I don’t think he’d had a haircut in the last three months that we had lived there.

“It’s good to see you,” he said, smiling. He held his wide arms outwards and enveloped me.

I smiled back, and accepted his embrace, our arms encircling the other diagonally. He seemed to be twice my size. He squeezed me tight, patted my back three times and said again right into my ear, “Damn good to see you.”

“Same,” I muttered.

We each grabbed a duffel bag from the back of the van and crunched up the gravel driveway towards my father on the front porch. He was smiling, his teeth yellowed and aged, the liver spots on his face wrinkling in the corners.

“My boys, my sons! Wonderful! Now let’s get some dinner, and start discussing emergency plans. When they start bombing us, I want to turn this place into a fort.”

He spun his chair around and Ira followed him as he wheeled himself into the front door. I turned around after stepping up onto the wooden porch, and turned back towards the town and looked down at all the old buildings and houses below us in the valley. Peaked roofs and shingles, chimneys with small clouds of smoke drafting out of them, and I thought of the way Dad said the word “fort” and thought of the old days, when Ira and I would stand on the hill and look down at the town.

Part of an Ongoing Piece, Part I

Ira got the call first. As my older brother, and the firstborn, it just sort of fit as part of his duties. He packed an old army surplus satchel full of sweatshirts and socks and through it in the back of an old Pontiac he bought for a thousand and drove all night down to our parent’s house.

Ira told me that when he got home, all the lights were on in the house, and you could see it glowing up on the hill in the foggy early morning, sitting just higher above the rest of the town like a beacon, or a lighthouse on the edge of a foggy moor. He pulled the Pontiac up the drive, parked it on the gravel, and crunched his way up the front porch steps with the army satchel slung over his shoulder.

He said that when he opened the front door, Dad was sitting in his old easy chair. It was moved from the living room to the end of the front hallway, so when Ira opened the door, Dad was looking right at him, his hair graying and wavy, thick and combed over. His face, Ira told me, looked rigid; grayed and cracked stone. He had a .38 pistol held up to his side temple and he was wearing a red V-neck sweater.

“Your mother was a saint,” Dad said, “Don’t worry, it’s not loaded.”

Ira said that Dad pulled the trigger and the hammer snapped back and the chamber rotated and the hammer came back down with a snap. Nothing happened. The gun wasn’t loaded, just as Dad had said.

“I’m glad you’re home,” Dad said to Ira, “Now let’s bury your mother’s body.”

In Which our Hero Examines the Consequences of Cocaine Abuse in a Futuristic Club where A Reggae Band is Playing at 4:30 in the Morning

"Fuck," she said, wide eyed and bloodshot, whipping her head back with her finger pressed to her nostril. She snorted two more times to suck up the remaining residue, then switched nostrils, and snorted again.

David looked on at the group of them huddled over to one side of the C shaped booth from the other side. Suddenly, his Heineken seemed un-exotic. His weekly four dollar splurge on German (is it German?) beer didn't measure up to $1,000 of white powder dusting around the air like a blizzard. Marcia cut another line with a razor blade, and Jimmy rolled up another Benjamin Franklin into a nose straw while Suzie and Herbert stared on with glassy, excited eyes. They were all wearing see-thru, neon colored polyurethane suits, 'cause, um, this was a future club. And some of those Max Headroom sunglasses.

David felt lonely in his wool and polyester black suit with white oxford shirt and skinny black tie and normal black sunglasses. Actually, he felt like he played trombone in a ska band - the look he was really going for was "mobster," but he failed at that too.

The club was dark and smoky, a combination of marijuana, cigarette, cigar, and smoke machine clogging up all the air filters. Through a shadowy mass of white people writhing in the bare illumination of a flashing strobe light, David saw the only other black guys in the club - the band on stage, even though he could only see their top-halfs because of all the silhouetted heads of rich, fancy club goers. The stage was lit up like a Hydrogen bomb - searing white light shining down on the ten to twelve black guys wearing ragged layers of scarves, dreadlocks, sunglasses (is everyone wearing sunglasses in this stupid story?) army jackets and soccer shoes and khaki slacks. There were two drummers, two bass players; a saxophone, trombone and trumpet; some keys and guitars and guys on soundboards and microphones. The tiny stage was awash with band members. The crew wanted to come because they heard a reggae band was playing, but David knew this wasn't just "reggae." This was some heavy dub music - dark repetitive pounding bass rhythms with heavy low drum beats and guys mixing the soundboards to make it all sound like one horrific nightmarish wall of upstroke sound.

"This shit sucks," Marcia said as Jimmy leaned over and snorted the line on the mirror in front of him.

"I dunno, I kinda like it," David said.

"You WOULD," Suzie cracked, her head wagging and tilting. She started leaning to the right, and then she capsized like the Titanic, falling straight out of the step-up booth onto her coked out little head.

"Whoa, shit," Jimmy said, twisting his neck to the left with a satisfying crack. Herbert tried to lean out of the booth to help Suzie up, but she was waggling in a semi-seizure with blood dripping out of her nose.

The song ended, and the entire crowd thew up a big cheer. One of the guys went up to the microphone, the one with the huge beard and military looking cap and spouted off some echoed Jamaican accented words that no one understood, and then a new song started up.

David took the last sip from his beer and set the green glass back down on the table. He stood up from the table but no one noticed and stepped over bleeding Suzie to push his way through the flashing crowd up to the front of the stage. The PA was blaring was booming and the lights were Atomically bright, but everyone was wearing sunglasses anyway. The heavy dub rhythms vibrated David down to the core, and then the bearded guy took a break from shouting something about Zion and revolution and held his arms out like a messiah. David nodded his head, and when a guy with a clean shaved face stepped forward the guy with the beard stepped back and looked down at David and pointed at him with his left, dragging the microphone cord on the ground with his right. David nodded, and the bearded guy smiled.

Then back at the table Jimmy threw up on Herbert's lap. Marcia's eyes rolled back into her head, and when she fell forward onto the table, her arm knocked over the tiny candle and the little flame spilled out over the melted wax and started a corner of the paper "Reserved" sign on fire.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Dancing in the Dark

I pushed the door shut behind me. My apartment was a mess. There were white t-shirts left where they were dropped, like little dirty piles of snow. My couch was rotten and old and mustard colored and there were white bowls stacked on the coffee table left over from last night's breakfast. The early morning sun was burning through the thin green curtains so I tried to rub the headache from my temples as I stripped off my t-shirt, letting it drop on the chair by the door. The bedroom was cool and dark, and my limps were limp from stamping steel all night, so without even washing up, I slid myself into the sheets, and dreamed of clanging metal and flying sparks in the dark.

When I woke up, it was dark again. My red LED alarm clock buzzed and it was 9:00, so I rolled out of bed. No words in my mouth. But I look over to the top of my dresser, and I see the napkin with "Kayla Room 325 Holiday Inn" scrawled on it and sigh as I head into the kitchen for another bowl of cereal.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

From Across the Bar

"You're a handsome gentleman," she cooed to me from across the corner of the dim smoky bar. "What's your name?"

"Mary," I replied. She had long dark hair and was wearing a sleeveless black dress.

"Oh," she said and stirred her drink, looking away toward the pool tables. The hypotenuse between us wisped away with the smoke, no longer a solid line connecting our two points with side A and side B of the wooden bar triangle. She wasn't down with dykes.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Fake Origins of Comic Writers: Tony Millionaire

"Where's my laptop?" asked Sheila. Her eyes darted side to side, surveying her desk top.

"I dunno," Tony said, pushing his chair back from his desk.

"Well it was here - I left it here. I left it there," she said pointing to a blank, rectangular space on the wooden desk, surrounded by ruffled papers.

Tony stood up, peered over his desk, which sat back to back from Sheila's, and saw the same blank space. Then he bent over at the waist, and tilted his head so he could upside-down check underneath both desks.

"No laptop down here," he said.

"I NEED. I NEED THAT LAPTOP," Sheila barked. She smacked her open palm down onto a mess of papers on the desk, then swept them from right to left, knocking everything off the desk - including a stapler, a cellular phone, and the empty end of a laptop power cord that was dangling where it should have been plugged into the now missing laptop. The tiled floor of the little room was covered with paper.

"Roll up your sleeves and get down on your knees and look for it," Sheila stated calmly. She eerily seemed to have calmed down.

"Why do I have to?" Tony whined.

"Because I can' t do it in this dress!" Sheila shrieked, her face all screwed up. In fact, Sheila was wearing a very elegant black formal gown, complete with those elbow gloves and one of those wrappy-thingies that you hold on your arms but goes around your back to make you look fancy.
"All right," Tony moaned, and he rolled up the sleeves of a very sharp looking blue and green and white striped dress shirt. He also loosened his red tie, his power tie, because he figured if he was going to roll up his sleeves, he might as well loosen his tie and unbutton his collar to complete the look. To complete the image for you, he was wearing a handsome set of grey woolen trousers and black wingtip shoes, as well as a black belt and watchband and undershirt, becuase Tony always thought that black underneath goes well as long as you match it to everything, because if you didn't, then you looked sort of off with just a black undershirt and not a black belt but if you did match them all together the overall look was just -

"Well, get on with it!" Sheila commanded, cutting off Tony's thought process. Her blonde hair was pulled up into a braided bun and she was wearing a little diamond tiara just above her crown.

Tony bent down and pushed the scattered pieces of paper and the staple and the laptop's power cord around, but to be honest, the little room was quite fairly very little, and there was barely enough room for the two desks - you see, if you were looking down into the room at sort of a diagonal birdseye view from just behind Tony's desk, you'd see that both desks were shoved against each other and pushed up against the white brick of the left wall, and that there was barely even a walkway between the desks and the wall of two-way mirrors on the right. Through the two-way mirrors one could see that currently there was quite the fancy to-do going on outside of this little room in the main ballroom of the mansion. This is where Sheila held her parties for all the foreign emissaries to come to, so she could get them to drink champaign and tell them their countries secrets, which she documented on the laptop in the little room. Outside at the fancy ball, people were bustling about on the fancy marble floors wearing tuxedos and black gowns.

"If I don't get that laptop, I'm ruined," Sheila said, huffing back the sobs with tears forming in her eyes.

Tony shuffled through all the same papers, like he had done four times before, but he didn't really care if he found the laptop or not. He was just mad because he was Indian and that he had to help this stupid rich American with her stupid parties in the middle of France somewhere just because he was an immigrant with an IT degree from Bangalore and Sheila needed someone to wire the house on a network. In fact, he'd even seen the man who came through and stole the laptop. When the man came in, Tony had his feet up on the desk and was reading a naughty magazine featuring females, even though Tony was sure that he was more attracted to men anyway. The man slipped into the room through the door that looks like wood paneling out in the hallway, grabbed the laptop, then put his finger to his lips telling Tony to be quiet. Tony let out a guffaw, then rolled up the un-arousing magazine and leaned forward in his chair.

"She pays me a lot to keep track of this stuff," Tony said.

"Here then," the man said with a Texan accent, tossing Tony a manila envelope over Sheila's desk. It fluttered into Tony's hands. "It's a real passport with your name on it, and your place of birth - The United Fucking States of Kick Ass. Also, a million bucks. Straight cash. American. Deal?"

"You bet your sweet bippy," Tony replied nodding. Then he un-rolled the skin mag and stuck the envelope inside it.

Tony was still brushing the papers around when Sheila and Tony heard a knock on the two-way mirror wall. They both looked over, Sheila standing, but Tony from his hands and knees. It was the Texan in the tuxedo. He pulled the laptop out of his tuxedo coat and waved it to them. Behind him people bustled about in fancy clothes.

"That bastard!" Sheila screamed, but Tony just laughed.

"What are you laughing at?" Sheila shouted.

"Oh nothing," Tony said chuckling. "But I quit. Oops! Can't forget my porno."

Tony grabbed his nudie pages and walked out the fake panel door.

Epilogue:

Sheila was hung for betraying her country. And then hung again for each consecutive country that she betrayed, in that country. She was hung thirty-two times. She was dead for at least thirty of them.

Tony, after receiving the million dollars, became Tony Millionaire and now draws comics in the United States, unaware that he ever was an Indian from Bangalore with an IT degree.

And the Texan? Why, he became president after he succeeded in stealing the laptop to fulfill the Skull and Bones society prank which let him graduate from Yale.


The End.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Ex-Girlfriend

So I was working at Starbucks the other night, and it was a late shift so I was getting pretty hungry since I'm usually in bed by ten. There was no one around, so behind the counter it was just me and Jonathon, this super hip overnighter who shaves his head and has really sharp cheekbones and has "Eloi" tattooed on his left bicep and wears tight corduroys and army boots and a t-shirt under his green apron and is super skinny. I was talking about how I was so hungry, but how I couldn't eat anything 'cause eating at night gives me bad dreams.

"Really?"

"Yeah, man," I said. "Like all that digesting and shit, just doesn't sit well. Gives me crazy dreams."

"Like what?"

So I thought of the last dream I can remember.

"Well, like, I'm lying in this big bed, and I'm fully clothed, right? But I've got my arms out - and like a Playboy spread or something, lying under each arm like a centerfold are my old ex-girlfriend from ninth grade and her best friend. Which is weird, because they're both really thin but kind of lumpy and they both have ugly faces with big foreheads and my ex has fisheyes and her best friend has kinky hair and a witch nose. So I'm lying there, and they're both all over me like I'm some, I dunno, some King or something, and they're my sex slaves. I dunno, it was weird, I didn't like it."

Jonathon started laughing, but when he laughs, it sounds like a donkey is choking and honking at the same time.

But then I got to thinking, I really did like that dream. It made me feel powerful, potent, sexually dominant. And then I started thinking too much.

"The REALLY weird part about this dream is that I dated this girl on and off since like seventh grade, but in ninth grade she went on this church trip and had sex with this guy in a hotel bathroom."

"Dude, that's fucked up," Jonathon said, leaning back against the counter. I looked out into the cafe, but no one came in. Just a few people sitting at those shitty round tables we have. Stupid college kids, you know? But my story wasn't finished, so I kept going.

"It was really fucked up! The farthest I had gone was to get my hand down her pants, and she hadn't even touched my penis before. Yeah, and I was totally stupid, I thought we were in loved and tried to keep the relationship going, but she dumped me so she could start dating my best friend at the time."

"Damn."

"Yeah. But it doesn't end there. I started going out with this other girl after that, and then ended up cheating on HER with the girl that cheated on ME!"

Jonathon honked.

Then some stupid sorority girl walked up to the counter wearing her white Greek sweatshirt and black leggins and big sunglasses and stupid suede boots. She had a huge weird looking nose and was kind of fat.

"Double venti super twisty vanilla latte-cino." Or some shit like that.

So I wrote it on the cup and passed it to Jonathon, who started making the drink at the espresso bar, and then I took her credit card and swiped it through the computer, running up another six dollar drink on a card that was probably her daddy's.

But it started to make me mad. I was obviously still bothered by this event. You know? Six years later and four addresses and two state lines later, I was still bothered by the fact that my ninth grade girlfriend cheated on me and then dumped me. Was I sad about the commitment issue? Or was I just jealous that she didn't fuck me instead? I guess my dream could be interpreted like that or something. Like I was trying to compensate for something. You know? Like, in the end this bitch AND her best friend REALLY wanted to have sex with me.

The main thing that pissed me off was that I had already graduated from college with a degree in writing, and had met the girl of my dreams and got engaged to her and moved in with her, and I couldn't have been any happier. She wanted to do graduate school at Indiana University, so I followed her there down to Bloomington from Chicago, where I finished my degree. I graduated about a year early too, so meanwhile, this ex from ninth grade (who totally became a loser stoner bitch who always wore horrible tye-dye shirts after we broke up) is probably in her fourth year of community college back in Minnesota, and I've already got a job as a secretary at the University for a dorm, pulling in a real salary. I just work at Starbucks for the free pound of coffee they give me every week.

But the shit hit the fan when I started thinking about college. You see, I went to undergrad for Fiction Writing, because I knew my Bachelor's was going to be useless anyway, and I wanted a degree in something I liked. But I thought back to the very first story that I ever wrote that was good. You know, the first one your teacher picks to read aloud in class? You know what it was about?
It was a fictional account of a fifteen year old kid having sex with this stuck up bitch at her parent's house over the summer while her parents were at work. They were both virgins, and it was about how it was all awkward and jaded and how the kid felt like he was used, but when I wrote it, in my head I pictured Kelly's bedroom at her parent's house, and the girl character was modeled after her, and the guy character, like all my male characters, was modeled after me. And the situation of how it went down was the same as when Kelly came over to the apartment we were living in while our new house was being built and gave me my first blow job in exchange for me eating her out. You know, when I cheated on Megan, the summer before tenth grade. It put me in a real fucked up mood. Six fucking years, and I haven't gotten over my first girlfriend and all the soap opera shit we went through.

Greg, the overnight shift manager came out of the back then, and he's kinda short with dark short hair and glasses, kind of looks like a gay indie rock muppet. He told a story about a dream he keeps having about an ex-boyfriend of his where he steals all of the guy's DVDs, but this boyfriend is from 2001 when DVDs were still pretty rad and cost a lot of money.

I didn't care, but Jonathon honked like a donkey again.

It wasn't until after my shift when I checked my messages on my cell phone that I started to feel better. There was one on there from a cop, and I remembered that when my fiancee was driving me to work, we called the cops on this asshole law student who lives upstairs from us and always makes a lot of noise and always parks his car over the handicapped ramp. Not in the handicapped spot, but OVER THE FUCKING HANDICAPPED RAMP, WHERE IT'S GOT THOSE BLUE DIAGONAL LINES OVER THE SPACE THAT SAY "DON'T FUCKING PARK HERE, ASSHOLE."

The message said, "Uh, hi Jesse, this is Officer, uh, Paul Warren from the Bloomington Police Department. I just wanted you to know that I responded to your call about the parking violation, and uh, it's one of my pet peeves, so you can be sure that he got a ticket. Also, I'd like to know what his apartment number is so I can, uh, hand deliver his ticket next time. Thank you very much, and I hope you have a good evening."

I just started laughing in the back room, and then I pulled on my big black military surplus coat, and pulled my fur lined hood over my head and walked out into the cold, midnight air and drove home so I could crawl in bed with the woman of my dreams, not the bitch that invades them.