Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Dream Fiction no. 2: Alice the Merchandiser

It hadn’t been the alarm. Those fast-paced electronic wails don’t wake our neighbors but on the rare occasion that they sound, we leap -- frenzied -- from our slumber. It could have been a phone chime, the baby crying, or perhaps just a hunch. Either way, I moved, quasi-upright, toward the bedroom door where I’d seen her exit, disappear into the hallway. Courtesy of the minimal light reflecting up the staircase, I saw Alice the Merchandiser vanish again -- this time into the foyer. The flash of her movement that I caught was quick and hunched, creepy like one of those alien snippets from Signs. It should have frightened me more than it did.

            I should’ve been afraid for what she might be doing or what her intentions were. Instead, sordid motivations sent me -- grumpy at being awakened, startled and pissed by her presence -- after her. As is my tendency, I hadn’t thought it through and had no plan regarding what I’d do if I caught her.

            For what seemed like an hour, though, I couldn’t find her. She was nowhere on the main floor and the more the time passed, the more I panicked. No doors had chimed; she wasn’t outside or in the basement or garage. Still, I could pick up no trace of Alice.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Piecemeal: Three

          At seven past eight the next evening we got in the Buick. I was pissed that Seamus wouldn’t let me drive but too tired and weak to argue. He wouldn’t tell me where we were going, and it made for an uneasiness that made me think of leaving his place and him. I didn’t have much money but the gas tank was pretty full, so I knew I could make a start.

            “Who’re we lookin’ for?” It seemed like if he thought me well enough to join him on this mission that he ought to share a detail or two with me. “That cowboy?”

            “Don’t worry about it,” he said. “You just make sure we ain’t bein’ followed.”

            We pulled in to the Black Bear Diner parking lot on Main in Fernley and Seamus chose an isolated spot. There were only three or four cars in the parking lot and when he shifted the Buick into park, I felt like his selection drew attention to us. From whom I wasn’t sure, but I could feel my nerves binding a touch.

            “Wait here,” he said.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Piecemeal: Two

Light poured through my closed eyelids and my skull rang like a council-fire drum. I could hear Seamus’ voice asking if I was okay but I hadn’t figured out how to answer. The muscles in my face pulled the strings to make my lips move but the pounding harshened. Ten or 12 thoughts swum in my head but none of them spoke as loud as the one that wanted to darken the room. A handful of ice cubes clanked in a glass just before some liquid was poured. The image of the cowboy flickered in my mind and I hoped the Buick was parked outside of wherever we were. Seamus sipped his beverage and let out an exhale gasp of satisfaction. Some plastic crinkled and a light rapping of one surface upon another preceded the dragging sounds of a scrape. Seamus snorted.

            “Where’s Abel?”

            Seamus mimicked the sound he’d made after sipping, then snorted again. I managed to open an eye and see him hunched over a table. He clutched something cylindrical between his thumb and forefinger and one end of it was inside his nostril. The idea of a whiskey-and-cocaine combination saturated me with nausea.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Piecemeal: Pilot

The strange feeling of a sunny, cold afternoon (with mosquitoes) floated through the windows of the ’61 Buick LeSabre. For a moment we forgot about the fact that we couldn’t put the top down; the pile of toasted bologna sandwiches was that good. I bit into my fourth and stuffed some kettle chips into my mouth at the same time. When Bill passed me the half gallon of milk, I gulped from it, leaving a dirty-finger, kettle-oil residue on the carton. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d eaten while sitting, not looking over my shoulder at flight-sacrificed crumbs. In one fleeting second I a) imagined what Ally Sheedy felt like when she ate that Cap’n Crunch/Pixy Sticks sandwich in The Breakfast Club, b) remained unbothered by the cow-juice-saturated white bread as shingled its wet self to the roof of my mouth, c) enjoyed the sensation of breathing slow while chewing, and d) pondered the spring board meeting in which taupe was deemed a fit shade for the new LeSabre.

            “Think we should try to get the top down again?”

            Abel squeezed the question from his lips while pinching once, twice, a third time at a fresh chaw.

            “Why?” I eyed the last bit of my sandwich and wrestled with whether I wanted it or the final handful of chips to be my last bite. “S’broken”

            “It ain’t broken, dipstick,” he said. “Needs a fuse.”

            “’Kay,” I said. “You got a stash o’ fuses in your shorts?” I hid a satisfactory smile; finishing with the chips had been the right call. There’d been a time I would’ve shared the thought with the long-time acquaintance. Many months had passed since I’d called him friend.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


          Salmon, lentils, rice, zucchini. They made their way to my stomach as I thought of James Joyce, the German soccer team, and listened to The Lumineers. I didn’t have to do any dishes; the music streamed free-of-charge into my desktop. A cold can of Red Bull knelt in one corner of my mind’s ring. Its opponent -- a dose of tobacco -- could taste the impending victory. As I clicked the Pandora thumbs-up icon on the Passenger tune, the basement door opened. My wife wanted to know if I’d gotten enough to eat; my daughter wanted to announce that she’d made a happy plate. Two days ago, we’d been in Oklahoma.

            Before dishing the vittles onto my plate, I printed a pair of forms. The first was a crappy The Print Shop flyer I’d made for tomorrow morning’s first customer. It contained a fuzzy image of the product I wanted them to buy, a breakdown of how much they’ll save by making the switch. The second was an evaluation I’ll fill out with my boss upon completion of the pitch. Once the USB cord was switched back to my seven-year-old desktop (from my work laptop), I closed up shop for the day and ate while the things printed. Upstairs I thanked Mama for dinner and as I returned downstairs, I thought of Oklahoma.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Untimely Reviews: Phish, "Fuego"

          Consuming music has gotten so weird. This is not an old-guy-hates-change rant, but I miss the effort and perhaps a bit of the difficulty of what it was like to experience music in middle school. Yes, I love iTunes, and yes, I think Pandora and Spotify are fantastic. So is Amazon. But when I was 12, 13, and 14 years old, acquiring music and then experiencing it was a serious, complex endeavor. Adulthood and technology have made it this whole other thing that -- for the most part -- grants immense access to the listener and makes it impossible to keep current. There was something about waiting until payday (or until I’d mowed enough lawns) and hopping on the 10-speed for a five-mile round trip to load up on cassette tapes.

            I mean, it wasn’t hard. But, I had to heave it up a few small hills and cross some busy streets and ride home with my merch’ swinging in a plastic bag, banging against the handlebars. And then I’d sit down.

            After all of that huffing and sweat and the awkward transition, multi-tasking -- once I was home and through the plastic wrap -- was the farthest thing from my mind. It was all about spending time with the albums, the undivided attention, the listening and studying, the melancholy of knowing I could not transport to the studio where that album was born.