Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Piecemeal: Five

Thomas started stealing sleep at age nine. By 13 he was a master. No parents, teachers, or family members could catch him; only the occasional friend. The thing had a sort of organic development. What began as a struggle to rise for school and a need for a nap after it had dismissed became a quasi-chronic exhaustion that garnered too much -- Thomas was quick to realize -- attention.

            “I was fortunate,” he said, “to recognize that they were similar to snacks and meals. I’d get them, but had to wait for privacy to indulge, or else I’d have a caravan of adults monitoring my every move.”

            By virtue of accident Thomas shared his story with me and Abel one day -- about a year or so after that Led Zeppelin afternoon -- as part of a point he’d been trying to make; by the time he realized his once-clothed secret stood naked before us it was too late to abandon his tale.

            “Whether I had to shit or not,” he said, I could knock out a seven-minute snooze in the stall at school. Easy. And when your parents maintain a schedule unflappable in its predictability, it’s like schooling a fat kid in one-on-one: a single head fake and you can drive the paint every time.”

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Necessary Exercise: Not Oscar's Home, Not Wednesday Night, and Not the Band

            Stephen King says 2,000 words a day. Natalie Goldberg encourages “first thoughts.” Neil Young sings, “It’s better to burn out than to fade away.”

            The blank screen. The white page. Blue skies from pain.

            Erin O’Laughlin manages a life way busier than mine with double the work hours, double the children, yet still adds to her Cornucopia.

            People snap pictures of their backpacked loved ones.

            Two thousand fourteen resembles a relay; August takes the baton, sprinting faster than July, who beat June’s time, who scorched May. Twenty thirteen scoffs; next year licks its proverbial chops.

            I find myself irritated by the new Pandora channels I just started to love. Tweets via SMS invoke ire, especially when smart -- and all of the ones I follow are -- users RT the day away instead of sharing original thought.

            It’s 10:00 on Friday night and I have but bottled enthusiasm for the Kansas City Royals. Another football season looms. Another Dwayne Bowe suspension hangs. Disappointment remains inevitable.
            I haven’t unpacked my basement. My stereo, in pieces, occupies a shelf. Because of that -- and so much more -- I’ve given my son the typical second-child shaft. My job is my car and my car clings to function by wood glue and duct tape.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Piecemeal: Four

When we got back to Seamus’ place I unloaded the contents of my pockets on the coffee table and paced, waiting for him to retire. Hearty, relaxed breaths were hard to come by and every time I stood still, whichever knee I placed weight on trembled a touch. My guts kept pinching themselves, leaving me in a spot where I didn’t know if I oughtta double over to counter it or hustle to the toilet. His couch begged for me in such a loud whisper that -- for a second -- I wondered if it was audible outside my head. One second I’d strain an ear listening for the sounds of his bedroom television to come to life; the next I rubbed my face and checked my watch.

            At last I heard the murmurings of voices -- perhaps from an episode of Law and Order -- and flopped onto the sofa as though it were my Battle Royal opponent laid out on the mat. I pried my shoes off with my toes and sunk my face in the throw pillow, fantasizing about the huge piece of sleep that lay before me.

            But a moment passed; then another. Before long it was five, 10, then 25. It’s possible I dozed between the 25- and 30-minute marks, but a full-body twitch launched me right back awake.

            “Fuck,” I said, rolling onto my back. Seamus’ ceiling was that weird white, textured surface, and in it I could find no patterns. When I’d had no success seeking shapes, I switched to symbols and drifted into that cosmic window where I remained dazed for so long that -- when I looked at the clock -- I couldn’t remember what time it had been the last time I checked the time, or even at what hour I’d laid down on the couch. When I went back to the bumps and splotches of the ceiling, I remembered the summer of ’73, which had been when I got to know Abel.

            We were 10 going on 11. Or at least I was.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Dream Fiction no. 3: Damp Footage

            When representatives of the six investment groups gathered for the Splash Time ground-breaking ceremony, I remember seeing it on the news and thinking it would probably take a summer or two for me and my buddies to make the trek to Jonesboro. I remember thinking that 3,200,000 square feet of water park sounded pretty freakin’ big, but -- like most square-foot measurements -- I couldn’t picture the size. I remember imagining the ease with which a 20-year-old might blow $100 in an afternoon there, and I remember feeling anxious about the infinite number of girls a guy might meet at a place like that. On the contrary, it never occurred to me that I would become the largest news story in the destination’s history, just 14 months into its existence. All of those things turned up true.

            August 12th had been perfect. Hank Zeller’s birthday had been circled on the calendar since late June, and our numbers rounded out somewhere near 11. This meant three cars, but three cars in comfort. We never had anything planned that far in advance, but it didn’t matter if we had a spot in mind six minutes or six weeks in advance: Who -- outside of Hank -- would drive was always a ridiculous conversation. Because he thought his ride was slick, and because he wanted to be in control, Hank always drove. Always. Plans, then -- when we had them -- would become concrete, and a seat assignment cage match would ensue. When the group was bigger than five, the excuses would come out like cellophanes of Molly at a Disco Biscuits show.