An old war movie was playing on tv, with the highly focussed sergeant explaining the significance of the new rifles the recruits were clutching to their chests.
"Look it over. Touch it, feel the weight of it. In three week's time you should be more intimately familiar wit(more)h your M-1 than any other thing in your life, including your girl."
He walked slowly, his eyes boring into each man as if into stone.
"Proper use of this rifle will insure that seventy-eight percent of you will return from your tour unharmed. That figure being the statistical probability of survival for an infantryman in this theater."
I turned the volume down and looked at Pop who was sitting in his favorite chair with the new reader's digest on his lap. I couldn't quite see his eyes behind his thick lenses, but the way his chin was sinking into his neck, I thought he might be dozing.
"Yeah?" He said, wide awake.
"We're you a good marksmen in the Army?"
He shifted in his chair. "I wasn't a sharpshooter or nothing, but I did alright."
"You guys had the M-16, right?"
"That's right. And a bigger piece of shit has never been foisted on the unsuspecting the way they dumped that gun on us."
I had heard him say this before. The early M-16s were notorious for being fussy to maintain, and had to be kept spotlesslessly clean or else they jammed.
"Your gun ever freeze up in a firefight?" I liked hearing his stories.
"Oh, I don't remember, son, probably. It must have, I think, but you don't remember those kind of things for too long. All you're trying to do is cover your ass and not get shot, and when you can, didi mao."
Do you protect your heart like a child with an egg? Holding it ever so carefully, keeping it safe from
You're terrified you'll get slimy shards all over your fingers, sticking to everything.
(more) Maybe you jumped too high or ran too fast and accidentally crushed it. Maybe somebody else snatched it from your hands and tossed it at the sky. Perhaps you nurtured it for years, out of harm's way
so that nothing could ever happen to it...
Until you noticed it starting to stink.
We all have these little egg hearts we don't know what to do with. So fragile, so volatile.
Don't you realize they are a dime a dozen?
We birds are meant to be free and can hatch as many eggs as we want.
Go ahead - make an omelet this morning!(less)
"How innocent do I look?" I reach over the counter and grab a shooter glass. I fill it 'ith pilsner and toss it at my face. One chug.
(more) "...t'ought so," he mumbles, neck bent over the bar.
"What d'ya mean?" I drum my fingertips on the cracked wood top.
He turns opposite me and grabs 'is deep tea cup of rum 'ith pink flowers painted on. He heaves himself off the rickety bar stool and ducks down int'a tattered leather booth.
Some night. Barmin Jim is out rushin' the under-agers around, telling 'em t' get the hell out of 'is bar again. They only got so many costumes. How don't he notice?
Jim lets m'in every night. He don't care t' notice that I'm a tad young t' be kickin' round this here bar. Old fuck doesn't know what's good for 'im. I usually bring in some more drinkers 'nd he likes that.(less)
"I couldn't believe I won such a prestigious award!" My boss told me as I was running a towel over almost blinding gold statue. I didn't have the heart to tell him, so I let him gloat. It took him 2 t.v appearances, 4 radio shows, and countless memes(more) until finally, 3 months later a shy fan in a coffee shop whispered to him... "you need to read it again". "What?" he actually responded, "read what again?" He went home that night and stared at his awards, and right there, glowing in the middle, was the completely fake mustard colored statue, that read "Congratulations on being a true zero."
Tell me, are you the only one here? I follow you around with my pearly white eyes and they shine at you and you know. You know everything in the room. Eyes in your hands and on your head and in your ass, watching it all.
(more) I can't watch you. You titter, tatter around and crawl all over everything with crumbs spilling out your mouth.
I tilt my head one way, scrunch up my plain face, look back and you're gone.
But you still see me.
I lift my legs 'nd hug them to my knees. I grab at some tissue paper boxed up on the left of my desk, flecks of dust flying through the air.
"Hello!" I say aloud, to no one at all.
Tell me, are you the only one here aside from me?(less)
I hate writing. It never does what I want it to do. Right now, I'm listening to a Bowie cover of Lou Reed's "Waiting for the man." It's not bad for a cover, though it lacks the menace of Reed's version. I have never waited for the man. I have waited for the pharmacist,(more) however, and I suspect that is far more frustrating, because pharmacists answer to nobody.
The meet ups have been unattended so far. The counter indicates that I have three people scheduled to attend, including me. If they don't, I'm going to email them and politely ask them what might bring them out of the house and to the coffee shop on Monday nights.
The Violent Femmes. Why can't I just get one fuck? I always thought these guys sounded nasty, too cool and too raw. Add it up.
So: writing... Always difficult and intermittently rewarding. A guy across from me is taking careful notes. He is flipping through a paperback he just purchased, the ribbon length receipt unfurling on the coffee table . Zydeco is playing. Foot stomping music with harmonica, fiddles. The title of a slim volume nestled in his binder is No Sign of The Island. I looked, it doesn't have an ISBN, so it's from a teeny tiny press, a chapbook. I wonder if he is a poet. The pieces I can see are short lines on the page, occupying maybe fifteen percent of the paper's total surface.
His laptop has a sticker on it, Bloof Books. I look it up and find out that it is a blog/ezine devoted to poetry. I am not a poet. I value clarity over lyricism. He has thick hair and thick glasses. He's copying something by hand from the thick new book into his notes. (less)
I could have a bonfire with most of the things I own and never miss them again.
But the problem with trying to clean house is the process itself: emptying the shelves and drawers and looking at belongings one by one, remembering how you acquired them or wh(more)o gave them to you and not being able to throw them away. Because for some reason material items have come to mean love, connection, life's meaning.
Our gifts are associated with the people who handed them to us. Our books are our lovers. Our televisions both our company and moorings.
On the West Coast of B.C. we lead a charmed life compared to the rest of the continent. No snowstorms, no tornadoes, no hurricanes, no oil in our soil begging for painful extraction. But we have one common spectre: that of the Earthquake. For as long as anyone alive can remember, the 'Big One' has threatened. The painful subduction of the Cascadia fault, shifting layers of Earth grinding like teeth, smothering layers of rock rolling past each other. Explosive pressure building unbeknownst to people on the surface world, with our oblivion. We think of bills, children, dreams, and worries and not the rebelling rock underfoot.
It gets painful and impossible to ever be free from your possessions. So it is better to have the clean sweep of a house fire or natural disaster so you can walk away clean...so you are free, laid bare, and you can see what your life really means as you face
the future barefaced and emptyhanded.
We are on shaky ground. I consider how it would be better to lose everything by choice before the time comes to lose it through 'an act of God.'(less)
My given name is Holt Arness Watson Kirk Sadler. But you can call me "Marshall". My father had a fondness for the old tv western "Gunsmoke" and that's where the Arness comes from. The rest, except for Sadler, were seemingly pulled from out of a hat when my mother, in her semi-sedated(more) state, responded a little to freely to the attending nurse's question as to what the little boy's name was going to be. On the birth certificate, my entire name takes up a full row and half of another.
I admit, my monogram is pretty cool: HAWKS. Or at least, I thought so until about the age of twelve, when suddenly the extended set of initials felt too brash and I thought might draw a certain kind of unwanted attention from the tougher, meaner kids with less exuberantly formed names. For a while, I was strictly Marshall Sadler, with just the two letters, M.S., written on the covers of my notebooks and other possessions I thought worth marking. This subdued relationship with my initials lasted through high school and college. But, in adulthood I've embraced the full set of letters again, and I even own a genuine Stetson that I paid $300.00 for with a three inch high "HAWKS" branded on the front. I only put it on for parties, though, since it's annoying to have to explain what it means, and everybody asks.
I should really get a pillow case,
you can pretty much tell my life from my pillow.
you can see which side I like to sleep on,
you can tell I have a cat based on the scratches on the side. You can see its age from its stitch(more)es,
how many time have I woken up to see fluff coming out
I would never know.
You can also see my occupation.
some nights I just come home and dont even bother wiping the blood off my face
or the mud on my hair,
I just wanna sleep and thats what my pillow is for.
theres even that one stain im not even sure how it got there,
is it droll or coffee stain,
i wouldn't know.
na, im not gonna get a pillow case,
sure it will make it pretty but my pillow has character...(less)
Koushi knocked on the door, as he always did, out of politeness. He and Tooru had been friends and neighbours for years and Koushi had been "granted the privilege" of letting himself in whenever he wanted to visit. It was mostly an excuse for Tooru to do the same(more) (he never knocked though, not even out of politeness).
As he waited, he switched the platter he was holding to his right hand and rotated his tired left wrist, wincing. Koushi's apartment was on the floor beneath Tooru's and the damn cake was really heavy. He bit down on his lip trying to suppress his smile thinking of the face Tooru would make at the sight of the dark chocolate cake Koushi brought for dessert instead of the milk bread Tooru had /demanded/ from Koushi when Tooru had invited him to his dinner get-together. Tooru loved his neighbour's home-made milk bread and Koushi loved when people knocked before going into his apartment but alas, we can't always get what we want.
"Tooru!" He called sweetly, the satisfaction of his petty revenge already setting in
Besides, it was Iwaizumi's promotion they were celebrating and Iwaizumi did appreciate dark, bittersweet chocolate like any sensible adult would.
The door opened and Koushi looked up. His smile faltered when he saw the stranger, who seemed to have been about to say something and was now just as confused as Koushi.
Recovering first, he smiled again and said: "Hey. I'm Suga, Oikawa's neighbour. I'm here for dinner?"
The man at the door continued to stare at him with his mouth open for a second, then he gathered himself and said: "Hi, um, I'm-"
"Daichi-kun, who is it?" Tooru called from inside.
For the feast, Mother prepares the traditional dish shortly in advance, no earlier than an hour or two, so it is brought to the table as fresh as can be. The contents of this recipe, her specialty, don't keep well, so it's served and eaten quickly, almost without chewing.(more)
Tradition demands that we eat, Mother and I, only after everyone else has been served. Mother is ninety five and has seen the family through many lean times. It started that first Christmas during wartime when hostilities were at their highest, and you couldn't get meat from the shops at all. Father had died that spring, and we were surviving, barely, on the meager benevolence of the church. But Mother insisted we were to have meat that holiday, and somehow she made sure that we did. There were other seasons when meat became scarce again or money was too tight, but Mother always managed to put meat on the table for Christmas, even if it was just a paltry mouthful or two for each of us.
Mother is so old now, and things aren't how they used to be. Meat is easy to buy from most anywhere and the times of shortage are gone. But she still serves her special dish, preparing it the same way she always has, locking herself all alone in the kitchen.
She bastes the meat in a sauce of her own concoction, and serves it very rare. We never ask her from where the meat comes, knowing that to question her methods would offend her.
It is not an easy dish to make, and she exhausts herself during the production of it, emerging haltingly from the kitchen wrapped in the same red housecoat she wore that first Christmas when meat arrived by magic to our plates.
The upper management seldom come to the stores, but when they do, it's announced days in advance, almost as a warning. So, before the king and his retinue tour our corner of the kingdom, we do the mad sweep and tidy hoping they won't notice the numerous defects o(more)r deficiencies. The term "Potemkin Village" comes to mind, a practice where the peasants in Russia would whitewash the buildings along the Tsar's route, and only along the Tsar's route, to put a good face on things, while the kids, hungry and in rags, hid inside. It's silly and practiced strictly out of avoiding reprisal. Fear, peasants! Fear!
Being put in this position, often on management's whim, is an alienating way to interact with your employees, especially since it's really the only way many of us ever see the higher ups. But the CEO is not particularly brilliant or inspired in his leadership, essentially ignoring those on the lowest tier, some whom have served for many years. Apparently, if you're not in management, you're not really in the game.
Enough stories slip through the grapevine about the CEO and his toxic relationships with those who answer to him, that an employee whose been around for any length of time is bound to hear them. The CEO is feared mostly because he wields his power so unpredictably and punitively. I don't respect him, I don't think he has my interests at heart, and I don't think he's fundamentally a decent guy. But he sure is rich.
I put my hand in the charger and slump down in the tiny stool that juts from the console. Power enters my body in waves. It's what I imagine a massage must feel like for a human. Pictures bloom in my mind like flowers. A tire swing hangs beneath an oak. An eagle talon(more) clutches a writhing snake. Clouds move quickly across a violet sky. I fall asleep.
Some time later, I waken to the sound of fingers tapping on a keypad. J____ is browsing the database, looking for reasons to hope.
"Anything?" I ask.
He doesn't answer and I know why. There aren't any straws to grasp. I stand up, feeling much better and, for that, a little guilty. In the corner of the pod, where the lights have been turned off to conserve power, my eyes fall on the shadowy forms of the virtual-dead.
"I'm going back out." I announce a few minutes later. "Our salvation will come from the outside. We can't just sit here."
K_____ speaks: "I'm going with you and you can't talk me out of it."
"Very well." I say, "Take that bag and some rechargers. We'll see what lies in the direction opposite to my initial survey."
With walking stick in hand, I lead us down the short ramp and back onto dark soil.
K___ illuminates his headlamp and the microscopic crystals dotting the landscape shine back at us like cat's eyes.
"I brought this." K_____ volunteers a few minutes later, waving a pistol.
There were no weapons listed on the manifest.
"I smuggled it aboard in a secret compartment. No one else knows."
For now, I'm content to let K_____ keep his gun.
"Put it in your bag." I say, scanning the hills warily. The gun has made me more afraid.