scruples stockpiled

rainy days,
threats in the skies
ready to tear up any minute.
mean time clock drive to end prize.
lapse focus, ear locust, low cost
affable affliction, cutthroat coupon, milktoast decision.
propose the angler’s proposition,
sitting between brick, stone, shell, and scum.
all a part of one self.
singular cell block built from ceiling down.
sublevel non restrictive.
the surface world constricted, worn until threadless.
seams be the issue nonetheless, once again.
my own sister shelled out to become unreformed.
none quite so quiet as the brother i never had.
dad was enough, cough out change at the bus stop,
enough only for the pits but always freely given the pithy,
regardless our need for the other or one another.
always a sucker for a parable or a parade
and, as always, a bank transaction.
ding.
dung heaps leap barriers realigned
now after some strife not following said stripes,
but who would at this time of night?
fled the flight to fight in the bath
against rubber duckys defenseless,
motherless same as you.
but more sane yet less in tact.
interact with isometric idiosyncrasies
and cry yourself to defending wails deafening in stride,
lock eyes to hide beneath follicles unstable,
fallacies now a staple.
death mosques, dread moths, discern marks.
dutiful disdain,
beautificious dischord.

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don’t even talk to me until i’ve had my morning mug of minimum-wage blood and other excuses.

spring floods, burnt shrubs.
words in stone shrouds no wrong.
dredge the lopsided hedge, wring that absent muse.
diablo licks undersides overstuffed unrefreshed.
quench thick ticks, think quick, thanks be.
salted cylindrical calendar service providers & chartreuse clergy chomping celery champion the new dark age from closets, bulbs burnt clean out, fresh skeletons hung to dry and beside them, crammed ‘tween nameless vertebrae, the recipe for verbose, responsive, disciplined discophiles, and a map pinpointing exactly where it all went wrong.

the ushers have now been stun-gun authorized.
please take your seat before it is taken from you.

as if by design

wrung our fingers between spiral spaces
of cord and copper laced to pulsing nerves.
somewhere there,
that being unbeen.

commemorate the last time you lied,
telling yourself, a witness, truly
you’re better off. while friends untrusting,
that lichen-like leprosy latched in deep,
remark it a strangely rootless ambition,
like their admiration of an apparition.

of you beyond stages, you in mutual cages,
that squawking chicken tenderly cuckolding the dream to be.
better, if in word only, does all good and no foul.

best, when kept shut-ins
with clipped wings and longer stems,
seem to bring their more booze down.
turn now to the half clogged sink.
bob for teeth before porcelain groans,
cracked up, straining, screaming:
whiskey neat and martini dry.

you’ve come at the worst time:
not at all.
deliberate shanks forged upon delivery,
moving slow. worse still,
we become one in the same:
friend to sperm and seed and spill alike,
blaming their every concession on the other.

wonder where we’ll meet, this time for gain.
sometime I’ll choose the left vein.
remarkable, the uncertain fuel
and how our fires burn
making us liars churning greasy truths
hung to dry on a lactating thread.

cowardice in manicured claws

cognizant wrench in the ship
incompatible without a kit
of asides unnecessary
feelings floating carry us away
sighs saddened for the wait
come to close
what not meaning lost
fair weather action repress word
banking on memory loss and drugs
that failed to stun
you did instead
you bored breed

the lioness lost her nerve but kept the pride deep inside never showing teeth leering teetering in time with her tithe check marked unlettered heavily filtered flickering telegraphic floundering between DO and NOT resuscitate.

whether pattern change yet to be scene

Fried eye, straight fines, crimes just below driving range, but not white enough to pry when the sunset’s limited to a predawn light show snubbed for the foreverth year now as Awards Season draws closed, blind to their mistakes.
It’ll be curtains for the judged this year, full frontail and matching the carpet, dust mites and all.
Take a chance – get away – fly to isolated winter landslides wandering wider whiter while whining: fuck god no why, holy burning snakeoil christ, Madre Muerta enmeshed in emasculation spray, daddy dangerous breath heavy always wearing inflammatory wigs and screaming,
“Taxing tarnation and matching bushwhacked critterskin tight toupees!”
Pissrats dunk sorrows spoiled in pity milk everflowing, taunt the mirror scraping the bottom of the empty pool, still couldn’t swim out of even without lessens aburdening your bludgeonous gastral projections.

and now for my final trick, i will turn a door into a jar before your very eyes.

MARGINAL MIGRAINE, MACHISMO MENACING,
CALCULATED CUTTHROAT, CATHARTIC CATHETER,
NARRATIVE NEGLIGENCE, MARCHING MATCHSTICKS,
GOOSESTEP GESTAPO, drinks gespatcho and calls it freedom soup.
crew day ta-tas.
titty milk drinking cow fetishists succumbing to succulent corn cob dildos for when Bill don’t.
Know thyself, ya beer-dunkin’ belly-coughin’ hoarder scum. You, the national women’s subjugation league assistant coach insisting brooches belong back in vogue on the back of vaguely familiar family members sharing dismemberment fantasies of their gore-obsessed second cousins.
buy stock in the menstruation manacle wreaths to decorate your pain in the blood of your narrowly aborted spawn. when your life is a mistake saved from death by motherly peer pressure forced on a forced-upon woman unwilling to love either you or him, let her alone. it’s all she wants.

scab city blues

DIXIE DAUGHTER
FLEE THE FATHER
DISCOUNT WHORE
IN A GROCERY STORE
ORIGINAL SIN

CRAVE THE ONE
ONLY SON
FEED THE FIRE
MATCH STRUCK DESIRE
TOO FAR TO RUN

TWICE BIT APPLE
HAYSEED BURIAL
SMOKE STACKED TAINTED
TALL WITH HATRED
SEASONS PASS

TAKE NO GIVE
WASTE THE CHAIN
BROKER ORDER
CALM DISARRAY
BODIES
BODIES
BODIES FLAY

the cadavers thirst

benign thoughts turned
cancerous results confirm
concern bereft context
contest stable flame
uncork broke brain
stale gems dull
bright creaks guide
assail fleetless soul
inhabitation shifting stroll
habitually halfhearted homily
abominable incoherent inheritance
institutional membrane lack
inscrutable socialite trap
malevolent duplicity endless
starched matchless attraction
the cadavers thirst
waylay sunny days
wish instead rain

puddle mop my own

Agree to dispense with the pretense-a shaky stance stilted above swirling black of unknowing exactly, what terror befall the clumsy and netless. Sun shone too bright, enough to be reproached-approaching terminal fallout spilled sidewalks, enough to prove you’re no pussy, especially to your boss, that closet cock sucker so unhappy he can only rail his spray-tan girl from inside the paper bag he forces the whole room to wear during group sessions running the bill up to the hundreds per minute including the concessions of course, what’s a good, scientifically monitored orgy without a few dime a dozen hot dogs to set the mood, strange, no mustard, only mayo for these linking over celibacy celebrations broadening the gape to include the sacred egg-based life we deny, claiming sprems our through thorough truth but though again favoring youth to wisdom–a mistake not quite as old as time but rewritten for sundials nearing midnight, the crux of existence is soon to come between the absurdist grin and the popping vein atop the existentialist’s brow before she commands an unhealthy holy hell fire shit she mistakes for afterbirth and even names it but before the emotional impact of such a folly sets in, the bruises rise up declaring the unions of platelets’ catastrophic wholly unheroic soon forgotten fraternal suicide stopping the sweeping release of the middle classroom from their desks, all conveniently stacked, to withstand a separate but equal terror threat–each given secretly, though a few selected for collaborative action, an entire weeks worth of knees to wobble, shake or even knock as their parents’ permission slips state stay either unfilled or lost beyond human reach in the crevices of the nearest backpack stitched together with that common cord whispering on flappy wretched tongues behind shoelaces tightened, creative control

melange à trois

partner flicker distance growing
park here, side street knowing
confession lies, flowers unblooming
congress contorting, confronting denial
saddle sadness knowing fragrance undoing
sidle excerpts continuing, haunted mind
escapist route flaunting hidden timing
embargoed routine, ease the mind
flutter whispers adherent to despise
found what lies behind thick demise
outer door swing wide then, and subsidies
offered paradise only to be denied

burl curl bark

down trod the depths, felled close enough to scrape the nose, too snatched by the breath of leaves gone sideways, underbellies up ribcages sewn together, cells knit round the edge of form fit, fatigued adherence the standards fluttering in the winds before carried off by insects in legion, carrion on six legs, to the glades, to drown in the river stirring up clouds locked beneath the tensions above, pressured into settlement deny the drifting tendencies however tenacious and rambunctious, ravenous glinting struck from the shade, crossing a threshold overlapped, meant to ever become another, however small or simple.

over due

word clouds begin repetition
communicative data spread
like lice, lichen lick
earthen stones, trampled cobble
hobble where the horses once sat
topple the whores now grown fat
cry, cry, and fly to the panhandle
visit the soon dead
recompense a bitch
bury me in the ditch
wont make trouble
the dogs will find me
or angry slumlord fine me
no sympathy
drawn blinds
manicured messes
marginal defenses
nothing left but pretenses
ashtrays piled high
gray dusted smear
comfortable cover
over stolen furniture
glass table top
bad blow and gut rot
the reality believable
beguiling and clear

wage slave

Paid today in part
in pieces chipped, still short.
Shift for a shifty,
worth more than it ought be.
Shit on the clock one relief.
Frescoes streak, sweat, and steam,
words bleed ink hearts staining sleeves.
Time away is breath unknown,
uncounted, untethered, worthless.
Hunker, bunkhouse drunks,
beware the scum sucking louse.
Don’t be crass, spend a look,
hooks caught, barbs inside,
signed off by the book.
While found words dissuade,
a vice provides elusive truth,
an unhooked noose, a loose truce
until something frays
pray it may be soon.

gods of trash

Would you rather be
ground or the seed?
Sage advice.
Spice bought the safe way
brokered through the slave trader
instituted by our savior who
occupiers and wage workers
sing the praises stern.
Cracking knuckles dusted
with the gilded charms
that grew our arms and dropped them
where there once were trees.
Now children cry and men deny
the poor forever worthless.
Ground to blood
the ancient ways
of tools we kept
long before we bore inept.
And slept away the birthing pains
of an endless swirling lust.
Lost their luster at the touch
the seeds often hunger
and wonder at the world above
while ground clutches
and cries no more
of a future it once saw in the grass.
The beak of a bird
in murderous flight
snatch up its filthy treat
apostate to its crime.

wet grass crab smell

cherry picking uncle fucker,
ulcer cow drippy tit,
cowl credible edible delight,
despite the night out,
insider bushwick fantasm screech,
throttle dangerous choke repeat,
savage strains stumble stairwell,
fumble tumble topside wet,
inheritance fraught beckon away,
plaster cast master class,
fateful envy monumental fascination,
fixate refrigerate lapping substance,
way finds you when,
backhand restoration corroborate decimate,
organize style wisdom none,
layman learns unheard terms

 

 

currents incur

she spun in a trance. slow and deliberate,
feeling where her body ended and the atmosphere began,
between feeling and the potential to.
the birth and death of everything in the arbitrary lines.
those crooked cursive scratches on the bathroom walls of time.
electric current coursing through the synapses,
the hot sticky air,
the torrents of breath,
the ensemble tale,
awash with the mist of evaporate both of sweat and drink.
the way she moved had once been described as apocryphal.
her heavy steps, looming and cataclysmic,
with a weight unlike anything physical,
like something wholly extra-biblical.
the intensity, birthed by deliberation,
hung heavier than any odorous perfume.
the intent, salvaged from desperation,
spoke louder than any preoccupied patron.

olly olly oxen free, never meant a thing to me

I used to steal bikes when I was young. Ride circles around kids as they stood alone, pooling tears on their dirty shirts, reeling back every time I sparked my brother’s lighter before riding away on their tricycles.
I’m not going to tell you why.

In middle school, I told every boy I was gay to learn how to fight. Smirking, sucking blood from my missing tooth, faculty on my side, untouchable. The stench of white trash flooded behind the dumpsters, drenching me in their fathers’ unearned respect. Sharing stolen matches. Indian giving cowboy killers.

Crooked teeth in wire cages split skin, the only noise that cruel vacuum gasp when fist recoils from chest. Accordions on silent strings. Whisping torrents of breath flutter ghostly, haunting hollowed bodies. Each strike rattling a dull droning buzz up my bones. A toothless, horridly tuneless fork.

No father abate me. Only a mother to hold, and scold herself for the martyr and his acolytes she made take his place. Straining back the lawnmower cord, between the rattles and the clicks I learn her favorite word. From her favorite bottle, I pour a drink. She pours another, unfolding her every wilting detail until all her drops run dry.

I meet the girl I wish to abandon with my child one day between bells and an attendance sheet marked absent. She kisses me, blushlessly, hand on my zipper, feeling me twitch, smile wide as time. She said it was on a dare. She is a bad liar. A dial lock jut into my spine, the combination known, but not by me.

Cold spring lawn shops close under the dark spitting clouds. We steal then smash mirrors in the streets. Behind a shed not far from our destination, we find a new one.  Exposed foundation and cracked checkered tile makes an odd rendition of a glass house. We settled in together, soaking through our threads and slicking our skins.

Silver staring back at me, as raindrops fell, and made bubbles when dipped beneath the surface. The water bubbled, condensed, and dripped, pooling beneath the spiderweb cracks chiseled into the porcelain pot. Our once-sopping mops stiffened by the breeze. Irregular and dark, encrusted as sculpted stone busts.

She smiled at me then, eyes alight in that golden hour somewhere between memory and falsehood. Embellishments ripple static in their wake, crossing what is known, and becoming, rather, something understood. Experience, the inadequate brother of Parable, built his bones on half-lies masquerading as half-truths.

We squatted there in that tub, tangled up in that tepid basin. Ripples mocked our beating chests. The tops of our knees quaked above the liquid mirror, frightened to touch while numb to all feeling. Open only to the exuberance carried by the frigid winds we could not see and the bottomless potential behind our eyes that we could.

I have one hundred-ninety two years of bad luck left to live. Thirty-seven and a half mirrors until I claim my jubilee. Impossible now to look back. Hindsight shattered, shards embedded deeper than probing introspection aided by the oil brewing poisonous in my liver cares to dig free.

salt & ice

grasping at straws, the final fault your own undoing,
like a thread pulled slow enough to keep together while the rest frays.
the memories alive with a feeling long forgot,
the gullible future continuing to exist in vaporous fleet,
mercied not by the winds of change or time or guilt,
dispersed by a gust, spread to the arbitrary corners beyond the place less traveled.
freed by inclinations to be, take the last step into your first life apart,
now as one from the all, the last of the many,
the few of the rest of all of us, we tired and deceived.
the nonsensical whimsy that stems from gouging piercings lying
somewhere between your salivating acceptance of the unbelievable
and the germane remnants strewn threw the fingers
like a screen to mirrors previously unseen.
unseemly backlit daydrifts glitter
as perspiration on the mounds mounting higher
with each passing blade sparked at the slightest agitation
but never enough to light the way.
kindle be damned, gather the rest,
cup the ember before it groans, croaks, fades, and dies.
to your own lies be true.
to your own lies be always true.

(originally written: 02.10.16)

she wears the shore

Worship me.
She whispered to the bellowing Wreck.
The planks succumbed, her salty lips
twist and brine and break his decks.
He shuddered, his only wish to splinter and sink,
collapse amid the flow, her swirling undertow.
Worship me, the boundless wet dark.
Do not forsake me, you splinters, you sticks,
I welcome all who fall to my depths.
The Wreck takes his last breath, unable to savor
before lights dip, hiss, and bubble their last gasp.

analog

The last note fell flat, warbled by the old crooked vinyl. The needle tracked in the narrow circle, clicked and began humming analog static. With a soft hand, he brushed her hair back. The freckles around her eyes were black spots in the moonlight. Little drops of rusty water leaking onto a sheet. The record made its round and clicked, its warm crackle like fingers tearing open a delicate package. Like the sea, only far away, as if in a shell and misremembered as if it had never been heard before. Something in the way her head rested on his chest, going up and down, like waves matched to the rhythm of the shiny black disk spinning as absently as his breath.
He caught it like a fish between his hands-there for an instant before swimming away back into the black twisting leaves of wet weeds-the memory of this moment transfixed in his mind’s eye as another far far away. He often shut his eyes for fear of blinking away such rare vivid recreations of his own recollection. This time he lost his gaze somewhere between her chin and her lips and the cool air she exhaled onto his arm. The dunegrass rustling in the breeze, he found her then, while wishing for nothing else but to not be found. Her toes gripped the sand, feeling for shiny polished pebbles to be flung into the foam. Little cross-hatches marred the surf where she had stood. He recounted her steps back as far as he could tell, but he knew her tendency to pace in circles, it started and ended the same. Like it always had.
The record clicked and the waves reset the sands, white, solemn, and lonely. She paced in her pattern, edging nearer and nearer to the briny waters. The whispy brown thistles parted at the whisper, the question, the worry carried by the weight of her name said aloud. He expected no call, or any answer, just a peace left in the brush to be washed away by the tides. Experience, not the explanation. He wanted the other, but deep down he knew he was wrong.
Her eyes matched the clouds strewn across the sky, thick as soot–freckled as the rest of her. Never taking her gaze from the edge of the world. Everything held in place as she stood in the center of the mirror. Both sides offering their boundaries with hands overflowing. She saw the clouds break in the surf, the salt falling on her from above. Her timid slender toes found a stone grit against another and flung it to where the water retreated, pulled by the moon herself. She took a step into the damp. Bemused or perplexed at how it held her weight, scratching salt polish against her nails as they crept down into the tidal pools.
Breath flooded into her lungs as the brine washed under her soles. She gasped as it were her first breath as the stray sands loosed now scrambled back on cold receding fingers. The shiver tore up her spine and the bellows blew back her hair. Hands outstretched feeling every prickle and bite with welcome. Her jubilant squeal twinged with an unexpressed longing was lost to him as the waves broke again on the sand. The cacophony embraced her as the tide rolled in, clutching at her with every step, curling its clear, wet fingers. She beckoned and bellowed and danced as the sea splashed up to her thigh.
She had told him once how fearful of the sea she was. The expanse of nothing, while even resting on solid ground, it frightened her enough to avert her eyes and pretend she was somewhere else entirely. She had never told him about the day she embraced it with open arms, clattering teeth, tossing rocks into the drink to test the depth where her feet would eventually follow. She never said how she saw the horizon cut the sky and how she had never seen anything as beautiful as the maw gaping, frothing, twirling, spinning, breaking before her. She had never said, but he had seen it. Now alight in memory, soon to be lost again as it had been for decades. But someday, he knew, she would remember too.

a rainy walk to work

Puddle muddled pills, bottle obscured beneath the grime.
Sewer grate mainlines off the mainland into the deep end.
Fishes in the drink beat the heat with a hearty dose, strained through the streets.
Wet stones, blocked paths, both slow, two in a row, three blinks;
where did the trees go?

Overhang clutching at the clouded streaks. It creaks.
This crippled corrugate canopy. It leaks.
Empty tank below, its threaded spines are showing.
Cross the way, past chain link and paint spray,
walls where there were none.

missing you, wolf eyes

passion projects onto walls the scatterbrain shock of refined attention.
definite despair, the disrepair, a life unfair, wages learned, faces turned
round and around suiting whomever’s found.
liver liquidation, pornographic pacification, sideways semantics, incestual suicide.
pipes aplenty. dreams be few. too far to see you.

-owed to the place now home.

grand circus park, detroit

This is a true story.

It cost me all the money in my wallet-that is also true.

“You can’t parallel park the truth. It fits right in.”-that too is true.

I met a man with nine knuckles and nine bullet wounds.

He only showed me three.

“Despicable.”

52 in august.

Dad built bridges,

Mother was religious but oblivious.

Had three brothers,

Tall as the buildings.

Hyenas in the park,

Prowlin’ where we now sit.

“But my way didn’t work.”

Has keys, but no home.

“Eat dirt, sell it too.”

Had fifteen suits, lost it all in the fire of ’96.

“Do you need your computers to understand that?”

Guess I do.

Rain’s a-comin.

“I won’t melt, only rust.”

Traded over my bills.

“You never hear nobody speak so much bullshit, am I right?”

 

ronin

Unrecognizable electronic pounding screeched from a broken off-white speaker tacked to the fake wood ceiling tiles. Hot steam from the woks fogged over the windows both inside and out. Red and orange neon flickered between the string of characters for ‘cheap’ and ‘food’. The family mutt shivered by the door, almost blown into the street by every violent draft. The screens played the latest jumble of news and cartoon, whichever pirate signal was the strongest tonight.
The few sets of eyes inside haunted the cobwebbed corners, never plotting but always talking. The three in the corner wore black with bright neon piping stitched into spiderwebs. The frozen chunks of sweat in their hair had finally melted back down into grease. Their long spikes were now wilted into one slick mop that flapped against their heads when they looked around too fast. They watched the screens and scratched at the ports in their wrists, constantly babbling a drivel of tech-talk laced with thinly veiled drug and street-speak. It was all a mess, none of them listened anyway it was just another noise.
He had noticed them and sat down at the counter before the door chime stopped. They were too deep in their withdraw cycle to notice anything more than the jumble of static on the screens. The dog didn’t bark. If he had to guess, he would have said that its chords were slit when it was a puppy. The truth could have easily been that the mutt was just friendly, but that didn’t cross his mind.
He slumped against the counter, clenching his fists to keep his fingers from quivering. His bare legs were numb under his robe. His sword, no doubt, frozen inside its scabbard. He dared not touch the service bell while his teeth still chattered. The constant knocking inside his head helped to drown out at least some of the bleating from the corner booth. It also blocked out the sound of the door chime.
Her touch was delicate on his shoulder but the spasms in his muscles didn’t allow much feeling.
“Sir?” she whispered, muffled into his ear. He heard a hiss and he spun in his stool to face her, biting into his lip to stop his teeth from knocking. Her hood was down and she wore an old rebreather missing both cheek filters. She wore a tattered black  jacket two sizes too big. It glimmered under the light. It lit  red around her head like a haze when the neons hit it the right way. Her hands were wrapped in bright patterned rags like boxers’ fists.
Cocking her head, she peeked under her hood, wondering if the samurai still had his tongue. He cocked his head as well, staring at the shadows where her eyes were. He glimpsed a hint of a faded pink circle half-exposed under her mask. It hissed again as she cycled more unfiltered air. She waved her pale fingers across his face, alternately wondering if he was blind as well as mute.
The samurai flexed the shivers out of his hand and snatched her wrist as if it were a serpent. With a muffled shout she tried to pull away with no use, the samurai undid the bandage with one motion, the fake silk hung for seconds in the air like inkblots in water.
“Hey!” She pulled away finally, her forearm now completely exposed. The ports on her wrist were still swollen and fresh. A mark on the back of her hand confirmed what he had had already suspected.
“I don’t think I can afford you, geisha.” He turned back to the counter, ringing the service bell. Her eyes darted to the lot in the corner and she slunk down onto the stool next to him, swiftly wrapping up her wrist and hand under the counter.
“And why don’t you take off that mask? You look ridiculous. Almost as bad as the hoods over there.” He jerked his thumb to the corner. The geisha stared down, blocking them from view with his body, pretending to read the menu laminated into the counter, no doubt a true fossil trapped in amber.
“You were going to ask me something?” The samurai shifted his sling, letting his sword rest in the small of his back. The geisha glanced at the green and black hilt. The mask hissed through the steam.
“Would you be available for hire?”
“I could ask you the same thing.” He rang the service bell again.
“No?”
“Depends.”
“On what?”
“You available?”
“No.” She crossed her arms on the counter.
“Oh, really?” He scratched at the edges of his stubble.
He leaned close to her and whispered, “I’ve never met a retired geisha before.”
“It’s your lucky day.”
“I don’t believe in luck.”
“I have a job if you want it.”
“I don’t think I’d make a very good geisha, but thank you.”
The cook finally appeared at the kitchen doorway, a creased-faced woman brushing wisps of gray hairs back under a ripped hairnet. She screamed something into the back room and walked up onto the stool behind the counter.
“Fried urchin and noodles,” the samurai pointed down at the menu through the grubby laminate, “and some tea.”
The cook rubbed blood onto her already stained apron and looked to the hooded geisha who only shook her head. Her mask hissed sharply as she coughed. The cook walked through the plastic sheeting, screaming again into the back room. She returned moments later with a cup of steaming tea before disappearing into the kitchen again. The samurai warmed his fingertips against the blue-etched porcelain.
“You’re one of Mistress Yuki’s girls?”
Was.”
“Right.”
“I need help.”
“You and me both.”
“I’ll pay you.”
The samurai smiled and shook his head. “Never heard a geisha say that before.”
Her face was flush under her mask. He couldn’t tell.
“Do you want the job or not?”
“What’s the job?”
“Bodyguard.”
“Ahh” He rolled his eyes, “Of course.”
“So you’ll do it?”
He rubbed his fingers against his thumb and looked dead into her eyes.
“Money rules this cold sword, darlin’. And I don’t believe you have any.”
The geisha reached back into her hood and unclipped her mask, letting it hang limp against her chest. Her pale skin was tattooed pink at the dimples, her lips modified with red ink that never fades.
“I can offer my services in return for your own, samurai.” She slid her hand under the counter to his thigh.
The samurai leaned in close, he could smell her artificial pheromones hanging heavy in the steam. She pursed her bright red lips.
“If I wanted the service of a geisha I would be at a brothel.”
Her mouth drooped to a scowl and then to a frown, the corners of her mouth quivered and she snatched his hand and held it against her cheek.
“Please,” She whispered, “I have nothing else.”
He could see her eyes start to glisten.
“I don’t believe you, but tears were a nice touch.” He snapped his hand back and rested it back on the counter.
The corners of her mouth turned up into a smirk.
“What ever happened to chivalry among samurai?”
“You’re thinking of knights, and knights weren’t homeless.”
“You don’t smell half bad for being homeless.”
“That’s because I bathe in brothels every night.”
There was a clatter and more shouting from the kitchen at the cook appeared again, with fresh bloodstains on her apron and a bowl of noodles in her hands. She tossed it on the counter in front of the samurai and stood looking down at him as he poked at the fried lumps of urchin. She snapped her fingers and said something in Cantonese.
“I’ll take your job, geisha.”
She cocked her eyebrow. “Oh?”
“Just… uh, pay the lady and I’m all yours.”
“Unbelievable.” She rolled her eyes, digging through her baggy coat pockets and slapping a few crumpled notes in the cook’s hand. She said something else in a harsh, unrecognizable tone and walked back into the kitchen.
“Is the way to a samurai always through his stomach?”
Between slurps of noodles and urchin he gurgled out a definitive ‘yes.’

cold

They woke up, just as they did every morning: him staring at the locks of her hair as they cascaded across the pillow, her brown curls lit in stripes by the blinds. He watched as she breathed, her chest rose and fell like the tide.

She watched the fan spin, counting the seconds in her head.

She crawled out of bed and put the coffee on in the kitchen. She moved a box off the stool and sat down watching the coffee boil and hiss.
He walked into the kitchen, as if drawn by the scent. He opened the cabinet and pulled down a mug, and then stared into the open cabinet.
He furrowed his brow, looking over his shoulder at her.
She raised her eyebrow just enough to be noticeable.
He wandered out into the sea of cardboard, his hands deep in his pockets. Peeling back a few folds, he uncovered a box of books, and another of kitchen utensils and placemats. He started in on a third before he felt her gaze on his back.
He caught her eye and opened the box anyway.
Ah ha, he nodded.
What?
You took my mug.
No, I didn’t.
He dug it out and held it up. He resisted the urge to say I told you so, but the look he gave her was enough.
Oh.
He looked it over as if it he were seeing it for the first time.
You know where I got this mug?
Here we go.
She sighed. He didn’t speak.
Where did you get it?
I don’t remember, I was asking if you did.
Oh. I don’t remember either.
I don’t know, it’s just been a long time since I had to think about it… It’s just always been, you know?
I know. I guess I just didn’t think about it when I packed it.
Wasn’t this a gift?
She shrugged.
Hmm. He took it back into the kitchen and set it near the coffee pot.
Silence stirred in the air. She absently picked at her nails. He poured two mugs and set one on the counter in front of her amid the boxes scattered next to her.
He held the mug to warm his hands. She traced the steaming rim with her finger.
Do you have any plans?
Like tonight?
No, like, she waved her hand around trying to think of a better word, at all.
I haven’t really thought about it.
I’m not saying this to force you into anything….
He raised the mug to his lips and blew. Yeah?
But, she continued, if you want to help me move some of this stuff we could go eat or something after.
Why?
Well it’d be easier to move…
No, why dinner?
I just thought it’d be a good, you know, final send-off, or goodbye, I guess.
I thought yesterday was the final goodbye. To be honest, I thought you would have moved out already.
I’m just saying, it’s an idea.
I’ll think about it later.

She took a sip from her mug and he did the same.
It’s weird.
She looked up, thinking he meant the coffee.
It’s weird to think about what I haven’t had to think about in a long time. It’s like everything’s new again.
It’s just like it was a long time ago.
Too long ago. It’s like I have to learn how to walk again.
Not that long ago.
He smiled, but just for one fleeting second.
She took a drink.
New doesn’t always mean bad.
He bit his lip.
Doesn’t always mean good, either.

Don’t be like that.
Don’t be like what?
So fucking pessimistic. All the time.
He threw his hands in the air.
No.
She squinted her eyes.
What do you mean, no?
No, I’m going to be as fucking pessimistic as I want. I suddenly have the freedom to do so.
Fine, I wont stop you.
No, you can’t stop me.
She held her face in her hand, feeling herself breathe.
Not anymore.

 

He wanted to say it but wouldn’t.
She did too, but couldn’t.

She left her mug on the counter when she went. The coffee was cold. It stayed there for days.
He hid his in a box with her books. When he carried it to her car, he made sure to put it on the bottom.

neck

She had always been an unremarkable girl. Quiet, though not shy, friendly, but not popular, cute in her own way, sure, but not beautiful. She was just ordinary.  But today the halls were silent as she walked through. Hushes and whispers floated in the air behind her half-slumped shuffle. Her shrug and sigh as she adjusted her backpack echoed louder than her steps. They watched like hawks to see if her eyes spied any boys with her incriminating little looks, but she refused to look anywhere but at her own feet.

The rumors had circulated, reaching further than she could have imagined, suggesting the most sinister and most vile. Word got to the principal through a few “concerned” classmates, and it spread its roots across the rest of the faculty. It had been announced privately that there would be nothing done about “the situation” publicly, but rather to let her approach any member of the staff on her own terms. Both the counselor and the nurse protested, the decision was final.

The room was empty when she walked in. Taking her place near the front, she dropped her backpack and tried to hide her neck. Others walked inside laughing and talking but they all fell quiet when they saw her–sitting there so sheepishly, delicate like a wilting flower, like a lost puppy with a quivering tail.  The lecture started in unaccustomed silence, and as the scraping chalk started to dust the blackboard she began  to stir in her seat.

She slunk to the bathroom without so much as a word, all it took was a little welling in her eyes and Mr. Newhouse nodded without breaking his sentence. All the boys watched her as she left, she could feel it. The bathroom stalls were inked in curvy black letters half scratched out. She had checked the halls and had checked the stalls and now found herself alone. She splashed some water on her face to muddy and streak her eyeliner, careful not to disturb the fake bruises wrapped around her neck like a medal.

puke

For some reason, all he could think about were volcanoes. Spewing liquid fire and melted metal right out of a mountain–murdering everyone like Vesuvius. He should have been thinking of a broken oil well, but the mind’s a funny thing. He wretched again, unable to open his eyes for fear of his own stomach acid splashing back at him. Though not particularly fond of his own appearance, he carried with him an unexplored phobia of facial disfigurement. His palms were slick and he had trouble keeping grip on the bowl, but he’d seen the floor and decided to take his chances.

Thinking the worst of it was over, he squinted into the black depth where the toilet was supposed to be and his eyes snapped open. It was like the oil and tar he’d seen used on parking lots. Endless and color-consuming. He spat what was left on his lips out and wiped his chin with the tattered end of the only toilet paper roll left in the stall. He didn’t want to, but he focused on the lumps that floated to the surface and thought again of volcanoes.

He had just vomited Hawaii into a truck stop toilet. Well at least the big island. The rest of the archipelago came shortly after this discovery.

He couldn’t help but laugh as he struggled to his feet and walked to the mirror. He should have been planning the shortest route to a hospital, but the trucker’s face at the urinal was priceless. He gurgled water at the sink, watching, for whatever reason, the toilet stall he’d just left. Checking his braces for whatever remains that happened to snag on their way up, he didn’t want to admit that Jeanne was probably right about that burger. But it had to have been the milkshake. Something about it tasted spoiled. He gurgled more water, ineffectively washing out the lingering taste and smell. Though he noted it tasted markedly different from his “normal” batch of bile, he didn’t want it to last long enough to be classified.

He hung his head and breathed deep, soaking up the scent of soap and piss and he heard a churning slop as his stomach protested its fickle hunger. He glanced up to see a hulking mass of black dripping ooze rising up out of the toilet. All he could think about at that moment was whether it was the burger or the milkshake.  The sound of a thousand wet mops slapping tile filled the room as the black vomit stepped out of the toilet towards him.  You really seen the look on that trucker’s face, at this point he pissed himself and the surrounding area. Pukeboy, on the other hand just stood there with his stupid mouth hanging open, flashing his braces at the monster.

While failing to blind the oncoming mass of black sludge with his dental hardware, he recalled that the waiter at the diner had a weird lump on her finger he had assumed, until this point, was just a wort but now things seem a little more sinister.  Then he remembered that witches had worts on their noses and that theory made no sense, regardless of witchcraft being the cause of the ten feet of lurking black death dripping towards him. He laughed a little in his head at his own “black death” metaphor, before yelping like a miniature show dog. The pathetic cry echoed around the grungy bathroom and was quickly followed by an even louder sound from the puke monster resembling slurping the remains of a milkshake from the bottom of a glass. It had to be the milkshake. There was no other explanation other than the disturbing reality of mad cow being present in both the beef and the milk.

The mad cow monster split down the middle, reaching out to envelop him in the black tar of its fingers. Pukeboy, assuming his new identity yelped again, this time like an even smaller hairless show dog and headed for the door in full sprint only to slip on the accumulated puddle under the hand dryer. His head smacked flat against the tile, no doubt leaving a mark on his blotchy forehead. The heaping black mass crawled closer with every slip, plop, and squelch, it hissed in a weird slow way he couldn’t quite put his finger on. It looked like it would get stuck, there was no way in hell he’d try touching it. Then he realized that giving up and letting the thing consume him was a legitimate option, but he didn’t think he could stomach the smell.

As Pukeboy flopped and floundered around on the floor like a fish, he noticed a smaller door shadowed by the exit door that led to a janitor’s closet. He struggled to stand, cursing the lack of grip on his vintage work boots and half-ran, half-slipped, half-risky-business-slid to the closet and drew out a plunger that had seen considerable use to say the least offensive thing about the layers of caked-on shit that added a good three pounds to the existing device. He leveled the poop-stuck stick at the encroaching tar blob and it reeled back like a wave hitting a rock. Pukeboy wasn’t about to waste the gilded opportunity before him so he shouted: (insert wizard fiction nonsense catchphrase) as the tile imprint still on his forehead throbbed under the flickering florescents. The vomit beast reeled back, either terrified of the crusty plunger or repulsed by the maddening fandom and retreated back with every step Pukeboy took in his direction.

With a bravado only fitting with the absurdity of the situation and Pukeboy’s ridiculously quick yet unanimously hated wit, he recited a few more dumb catchphrases drawing from the key elements of scat humor and (insert title of “witty” adult cartoon), and successfully pushed the walking oil stain back into the stall and down into the festering toilet bowl. At last, striking the trademark pose of a respected naval officer, he flushed the toilet, watching the seeping blackness drain into the sewers with one last satisfying gurgle.

Exhausted and, frankly, smelling a little like shit himself, Pukeboy sat down at the toilet and pulled out his phone, praying to god the screen wasn’t cracked any more than it already was. He breathed a sigh of relief and typed away with his one clean thumb. The indignance was as as clear on his face as his mountain of cystic acne.

With a final shit-eating grin, Pukeboy hit send on his latest Yelp review. “6/10 would eat again.”

dust

the highway was still hot from the sun, even as it slowly set behind the often talked about but never seen ‘destination’, so he took to the rocky grass off the shoulder. Brown and white clouds kicked up with his every step soaking into the thread of his pants like a stain that would most definitely wash out. He only walked with the sun to his back. At mid-day he’d just turn around. He never stuck out his thumb to the sound of a rattling engine or the promise of headlights. Didn’t matter–or as he would say: “that’s just how it rolls.”  It’s not as if he were some unwashed, crazy-eyed, cousin-fucking, bearded prospector from the mountaintop, though he was very clearly unwashed. Not as if the cleanliness of your mind and soul count for anything if the edges of your beard are layered with the fine dust one only finds on the roadside. And, yes, he was near-sighted in one eye prompting a quite uneven prescription, not that he ever wore his glasses even when he did know where to find them. And before your ask, no, he did not, in fact, fuck his own cousin. Though he was unsure about the legal statues of the matter in the state regarding the fornication/marriage of relatives, it said somewhere in the good book that merely thinking impurely of a woman was adultery. Of that he was certain.  But it was not for that sin he walked.

the highway was hot all the time, he mused, welling up enough spit to wash out the grit he felt in his mouth, except when he slept. His pace slowed around what he presumed was one or one thirty, about when all the headlights stopped coming and all the taillights stopped going. He was alone with the stars but he’d stopped searching them a long time ago, claiming the deficiency in his ‘bum eye’ to blur them into one bright mist stuck in the sky like a dust-covered spiderweb. He slowed his pace, seeing the last set of taillights wander over the horizon or around the bend or up the hill. It was up the hill but he pretended not to know. He stopped and sat down at the rather large rock he pretended to not remember was by the roadside. He mimicked surprise when he found a splinter of chalk deep in the fold of his pocket, but he didn’t make a fuss when he scratched another tick mark next to a line of others. He actually couldn’t remember how many marks were on the rock, it rained once in a while, believe it or not. He claimed he was going senile, but what does he know.

He slipped off his boot and shook out the pebble he’d been slowly polishing into a gem for the last six miles. The other boot still had laces which he slowly worked off with the only unbroken or blister-free fingers he had–his pinkies and a thumb. His left thumb, in fact. The one the devil kept intact so he could signal for a ride whenever he gave up. His knees creaked a little like an old wooden floor, he thought they sounded more like an old staircase. He stepped heavy onto the gravel near the roadside before he felt the highway under his feet. The dust of the day had finally settled–a blanket thicker and heavier and less perceptible than the darkness of the night. He crawled underneath its covers and rest his head against the cool yellow pillow of the highway.

He fell asleep as the desert coyotes howled miles and miles away, trying to remember the number of times he’d marked that rock. He wouldn’t say even if he knew it for fact.

Headlights hurtled up the hill, sped around the curve, and dawned like two suns over the horizon. The radio was broken, not that it mattered. The tires were white, not that that mattered either. The driver was named Ronald, but it could have easily been anyone. It didn’t matter. The speedometer wobbled between sixty and seventy. Ronald found on his travels that the dust settled between the cracks in the road glinted in the night sometimes, like the road were just an expansion of the sky, but only when the headlights were off. Once he had climbed the hill and braved the curve, he cut the lights and found himself drifting through the starry asphalt river as the engine roared and his sleeve flapped in the breeze.

The headlights sparked back to life and washed out the fallen stars. Ronald peered over the steering wheel, searching for a sign. He was almost certain he had taken a wrong turn and almost wished for it to be true when the lump in the road filled his vision and blood rushed to his toes and his skin felt like it was gone. The tires twisted and hit the rocky dirt with a crash as the headlights shattered against the marked rock. The engine hissed and rattled  and coughed as Ronald felt the imprint of the steering wheel in his forehead. He was afraid to check for blood, not that he could see it in the dark. His heart thundered, louder now than the engine and the vile curses from the crazed bearded man ambling toward his window.

He mumbled something with a mouthful of blood, and even if it were discernable, it wouldn’t matter.

The dusty man’s hand came through the open window and struck him across the face.

God damn you! He shouted as the dust began to settle over the wreck and into the blood on Ronald’s chin.

God damn you! He shouted again, working the handle on the bent door. Ronald couldn’t focus through the tears welling in his eyes.

God damn you. His shoulders heaved as he spoke, that Ronald could see. The door opened, the squeal of metal on metal filled the air.

The dust covered man took Ronald by the shoulders and shook him.

You were supposed to be the one! The One, damn it!

Ronald said nothing, not that it mattered anyway.

God won’t let me die, you understand? Someone has to do it for him. And that was supposed to be you! 

The dusty man collapsed to his knees and began to sob as the dust filled his eyes and covered his head.

After a long time he stood to his feet and began to wander back to the highway, the dust now settled.

If he wants me to keep walking, he mumbled to himself, then I guess I’ll keep walking.

You ought to do the same, he said, looking to Ronald, because God knows you’ll be walking a long time too.