King lives and writes in Nashville.
long lost pals:
here’s how they roll.
they will call you up right
out of the blue, on a Tuesday
morning at 5 a.m., and
before you can breathe,
oodles of exciting
developments to report.
all they required was a little
time and distance away
from you, and their lives
transformed from uneventful,
at best, into
underwear parties with
fine young girls and in-ground
pools and 10-lb. bass in
sprawling new reservoirs of
crystalline supremacy on
acres of land.
although you’re terribly skeptical, a
trip will be arranged as to
witness for yourself the
newfound paradise of
long lost pals, these
grandiose lives assembled
like swing sets or timeless
no one is looking, and
here’s the reality:
one overweight girlfriend, one
rug rat from wedlock;
an above-ground pool inflated with
it’s rubber and intriguing since
you never really knew
such pools existed; one
doublewide trailer, and a catfish
mudhole drying in the
yard with frogs and turtles and
billions of neurotic and soon-to-be
homeless water skimmers.
Robinson lives and writes in Alabama.
She didn’t drop her big basket of laundry or scream when she saw the man sitting in her living room, on her couch. Later, when she explains what happened, that will strike her as odd. When she saw him sitting there — very good-looking, really, crisp shirt, tidy creases in pinstriped pants legs, smoking a cigarette — she probably should have dropped it, letting all the white sheets and soft, warm pillowcases tumble onto the carpet without worrying about them getting rumpled or dirty. She was shocked, of course. Her eyes got round and wide, her mouth was a little round hole, and her nostrils flared a little. Her tidy, childlike face, five circles all at once. She supposed it just wasn’t in her nature to drop things.
Then she went to the bedroom, where she saw his underclothes in their little heap at the foot of the bed. She opened the hamper and with delicate fingers separated his wrinkled white shirts and her white panties from her printed skirts and his black socks. She stripped the bed and shook the pillows out of their cases.
Scooping the pale mound into the king-size sheet, she hoisted it into the washing machine, emptied a cup of detergent and a little extra bleach, and set the knob to Normal Wash. In the spring and summer, after the clothes finished their spin — and this was the thing, the crucial, unequivocal thing for her — she put the soft, damp mass into a basket and took it outside to the backyard, where she had strung three lines from the high wooden fence that surrounded their small yard and rigged them to the edge of their small patio. She was the only person in her neighborhood who line-dried her clothes, ever.
On this Tuesday, it had rained the night before, so the grass was wet and the ground was still a little muddy. She was barefoot, and the mud squished under her feet and between her toes. The sun warmed her forearms and intensified the clean, damp smell from the laundry. She slung the clothes over the line until her hands and arms were slick and sore.
When she finished her routine, she usually spent a few minutes between the clotheslines, looking at her work, letting her mind wander. This Tuesday, she was outside for quite a while after she had hung up the sheets and pillowcases and underwear. The grass was a deep, vibrant green, wet and very shiny. Even the mud looked rich. The clothes looked especially white, bone white, brilliant white, and she pressed her nose into them and inhaled deeply. She smelled sunshine and electricity, and also something else, a whiff of rich smoke that faded almost before she noticed it. She looked at the sun through the clothes. From far away, she heard a crow caw. Feeling strangely childlike, she spent the next 30 minutes in between the lines of laundry, just touching, imagining that the sheets were the sails of a ship, the inside of a circus tent, the fluid white walls of an undersea castle. Then she started to feel silly and went inside to dust the furniture.
It was after she took the clothes off the line, folded them up and brought them inside that she first saw the man on her couch, the man in the button-down shirt who had folded his suit jacket neatly on the arm of the couch and loosened his tie, the man who was smoking a cigarette and casually tapping the ash into his palm — no one in the house smoked, so there were no ashtrays. All the doors were locked except for the sliding door that led to the backyard, so she had to assume that he had somehow slipped inside while she was out with the laundry. But that made no sense. The yard was tiny and surrounded on all sides by the fence. There was a gate, but surely she would have noticed if he’d opened it, snuck into the yard and walked right into her house, wouldn’t she? The man smiled.
“Oh,” he said, cupping his hand to catch the ash from his cigarette. “I see I’ve caught you in the middle of something.”
He closed his fingers around the ash and slid his fist inside the pocket of his jacket. His voice was soothing and deep, just a little timid.
“I know what you’re thinking,” he said as he took his hand out of his jacket. The ash was gone. He smiled agreeably.
“I promise you, and I’m not saying this to frighten you or anything, I really don’t plan on hurting you, truly,” he said, “but I promise if you scream, it will have absolutely no effect whatsoever.”
Lying on her coffee table where a nice bowl of flowers had once been was a black gun. She stared at him as she held the basket of laundry and, after a long minute, made a noise in the back of her throat.
He was down to the end of his cigarette. Holding the smoking butt between his thumb and forefinger, he glanced around the room. After a moment, he picked up the pistol and turned it upside-down, which made her put down her laundry. She backed herself against the wall, and he smiled reassuringly as he carefully pressed the cigarette tip against the butt of the gun, stubbing it out. He slipped what was left of the cigarette into the pocket of his jacket and, still holding the gun, stood up. He was quite tall, she thought.“There now,” he said. “I think it’s time for us to be going. We’re both very busy people.”
What could she do? She had never seen a gun up close before, and she was sure that if she tried to run outside or into the kitchen to dial 911, he would easily shoot her. By the time she had given it any thought, he was already holding the front door open for her, jacket on, gun tucked away somewhere. Still barefoot, with her hair in a knot and no purse, she left her house. They walked down the little path that she had lined with moss rose and lavender a few weeks before, and he held the door of his pretty blue Mercedes open as she slid inside and buckled her safety belt. She stared at her front door as he started the engine and backed out.
She didn’t really know much about cars, but she could tell this one handled like a dream. As they glided along her street, she noticed the world seemed different, richer somehow, when she was riding inside a nice car. The houses looked dainty and quiet, and the trees curved regally over the road.
He coughed. “You know, I grew up not too far from here,” he said. “I think your husband did too, didn’t he? I remember him, from grammar school. He was a little older than me. I’m sure he wouldn’t remember who I was.”
She looked at him out of the corner of her eye. She didn’t spend a lot of time watching the news or reading the paper, but she scoured her memory for his face — surely there were warnings about him, a this-just-in bulletin about a strange, handsome, perfectly pleasant man, a local, who also carried a gun and kidnapped women. He drove expertly, she noticed, just a hair over the speed limit with one hand on the wheel and the other resting lightly on the gearshift. He had a tranquil smile on his face, and even whistled a little.
They were riding through a part of town she knew of but never visited. They passed through a neighborhood, and then a business district. The miles slid by underneath them, and the office buildings and stores grew farther and farther apart.
He cleared his throat. “It’s hard sometimes, to remember so much.” He glanced at her. “I remember everything. Everything. Can you imagine what that’s like? Everything I do and see has its own separate memory. Every single day a new batch, all of them, into the old storage bin.” He tapped the side of his head.
She smoothed her hands over her skirt. She knew she was supposed to say something or ask something. But what? She didn’t know. It was too late for Do I know you? Where are you taking me? Maybe, What are you going to do to me?
Did it matter? She smoothed her hands over her skirt and licked her lips.
“I can’t imagine what that’s like,” she whispered. Her voice was almost lost in the soft purr of the engine. He brightened.
“Nobody can,” he said. “It’s really strange. I ask other people what they remember all the time. They give me a handful of childhood stories, tell me about a few great or terrible moments, and that’s it. And that’s the thing, you see? Those memories shape them. Me though, I have too many memories. Can you see? I’m completely shapeless.”
He rubbed the steering wheel and let out a long, low whistle. He laughed.
“It’s OK if you don’t understand,” he said. “It’s just the way I’m different, I guess.”
The road had turned to dirt now. She was completely lost. He stopped the car along the side of the road. He looked at his hands and spoke in a hesitant voice. “There’s a place I like to go, not too far from here,” he said. “I found it once and never forgot it. Barely a few minutes’ walk.” He got out of the car and opened her door.
He walked in front of her, so that she could see the faint outline of the gun tucked into the waistband of his trousers. They walked through the dirt, and into grass and a young forest, where the trees were small and barely budding.
After a few minutes the trees opened and, looking around him, she saw a pond, pale green and hardly 20 feet across. He sat on the ground near the edge of the pond and motioned for her to sit next to him. When she sat, tucking her skirt around her legs, he patted her knee and smiled at her.
“I think it’s almost finished, though,” he said. “I celebrated my 31st birthday just a few weeks ago, and I think I’m finally starting to forget.”
She looked out at the water.
“Memories fade as you get older,” she said in a low voice.“Fade? No, not quite,” he said. “No, it’s more like a party. This room,” — he tapped his head — “is full of people, and more keep piling in. Soon, the room gets so packed that for every person that comes in, another one has to leave. Can you imagine?
“Take today, for instance, or this week. What do you think you’ll remember about it in 10 years? Not much, that’s what. But not me. I’ll remember every great and awful and boring thing from here on out.
“I would get so depressed. Sometimes, I could barely take it, when I was a younger man. It was so hard to just live,” he said.
Her eyes got wide. She thought about the gun in his waistband.
“But I’ve accepted it. I’m a memory man.” He laughed. “And now, at least, I have a little control. I can’t control what I lose, of course, but the new memories, those I can create. It’s a power I haven’t had before.”
He rested his head in his hands, rubbing his scalp. When he looked at her, he didn’t smile.“And let’s say something terrible, something completely unforeseen happens. Let’s just say I end up with a new, horrible memory. So what, who cares? It all just ends up in the old file anyway.”
She stared into his eyes, his dark, bottomless eyes. He seemed so very old, and she wondered why she hadn’t noticed it before.
The pond shimmered in front of them as they sat together, side by side, not moving and not speaking. After what seemed to be the right amount of time, she snuck a peek at his face. He looked peaceful again, smiling. She pictured the roomful of memories crowded in his mind, always loud, always moving, always threatening to invade the present. She really couldn’t imagine.
She stood up and walked to the edge of the water, waded in up to her ankles. Her feet looked large and bloated. She took a deep breath.
“When I was little, I used to look for places like this,” she said. “We lived in a suburb, but I always liked forests and creeks and things like that. I’d ride my bike for hours, out into the country, just to find places like this.” She laughed. “My parents would be so worried about me.”
“That’s a nice memory,” he said. “You’re lucky.”
She looked at her reflection in the water, at her quivering lips and eyes and hair. The light was fading.
“I need to go home,” she said quietly.
He sighed and stood up, brushing the dirt off his rumpled pants. He smiled, and his face reminded her of a dishcloth that had been wrung out one too many times.“I guess I’ll be arrested,” he said. “You’ll have to tell the police, you know. It’s the only thing you can do.”
The sun had set by the time they pulled into the driveway. She was relieved to see her husband wasn’t home yet.
He lurched the car to a stop, and she stepped out gingerly, feeling the cold, hard cement under her toes. She turned, trying to catch his eye, but he won’t look at her. Wordlessly, without unbuckling his seatbelt, he reached over, closed the passenger door and sped away. Sudden as he came.
The smell of exhaust mingled with the scent of lavender and night air. When she opened the door, the first thing she saw was the basket of laundry, glowing in the darkness. The sliding door was wide open, yawning, calling her outside. She shut it and locked it.
She wandered upstairs, trailing her fingers on the banister, into the bedroom. The lump of dark dirty laundry was still on the floor where she left it, crouched and crumpled, like a sleeping dog. She perched on the bed, staring at the lump, until she heard the hum and cough of her husband’s car in the driveway. She got down on her knees and picked through the pile, pulling out a pair of shorts and her husband’s navy t-shirt. She stripped in the darkness and slid into the clothes. After slipping her cold feet into a pair of tennis shoes, she jogged down the stairs as her husband opened the door.
“I’m going for a run,” she said. She kissed him on the mouth, squeezing his butt. He laughed. She was out the door before he could ask any questions.
Tonight, she ran, listening to the slap-slap of her shoes and the night birds — weightless, like a sheet in the breeze.
Knabb is co-owner of Curbside Splendor Publishing and Editor-in-Chief of Another Chicago Magazine — he works as a janitor for THE2NDHAND.
for James Tadd Adcox, as per his rules and all at once
Me and Dawn Ray was out in the garage pig sweatin’ Pete Ramsey’s fat ass for pills while Harold and his band was practicin’ when Mindy Jefferson and Cancerdog Adkins come barrelin’ right up the driveway in his F-150 and got out and walked straight over to Harold and Cancerdog took to beatin’ him down into the ground never sayin’ word one with Mindy over ’em screamin’ you just better hope I ain’t pregnant cuz I’ll own your ass you barrelchested son of a bitch and that just went all through me ’cause everybody knows Harold wouldn’t fuck that skanky hollerbitch with Pete Ramsey’s dick so I walked right up and blacked her eye and that’s when Cancerdog turned on me yellin’ you best mind your own fucken business Nichole you purplehaired bitch and I screamed this is my fucken business because I just made it my fucken business and I shoved Cancerdog and told him you’re free lunch motherfucker and your whole family’ll die wearin’ wellstained churchclothes and then I grabbed Harold off the ground which is somthin’ considerin’ I only weigh a-hundred-and-five-pounds with my Oxblood steeltoe Doc Martens on thank you very much but that’s just how pissed I was because me and Harold ain’t like the rest of Boone County since he’s gonna be a famous country singer and I’m gonna be his photographer and document everything we do and show the world just what they’re missin’ while they sit in the bleachers at Skyhawk football games spittin Copenhagen into popbottles stuffed with napkins and most of ’em either laid off or on worker’s comp while their sons get their asses kicked and not a one of them will say a goddamn thing about the fact that the principal and the math teacher just got busted smokin’ meth on school property cuz they’re too fucken busy puttin’ stickers of Calvin pissin’ all over some NASCAR number on their freshwaxed 4x4s and callin’ in to vote for some TV dance show on Sunday nights fresh from church and full up with the spirit and clappin’ their guts out when their boys don’t fuck up against the Sherman Tide and their asses numb from bleacher metal and they make me want to puke and that’s exactly what I did I puked up big hunks of hamburger and strawberry milkshake and halfchewed nervepills right onto Mindy Jefferson and Cancerdog Adkins and Harold started laughin’ blood pourin’ from his mouth and Mindy and Cancerdog turned right around and got into that truck without even wipin’ any of that vomit off and they laid ten feet of tire gettin’ outta here so fast and I could feel Dawn Ray and them lookin’ at me and Harold like holy fucken shit did that really just happen as I turned to ’em with them halfdigested purple klonopins burnin’ my throat all to shit and fuck you if it wouldn’t of made a perfect picture.
So You Think You Have Nerves of Steel? Audience and performer both will be proving it yet again in the new year — the third day of it, to be exact. Nerves is THE2NDHAND’s Chicago variety series, well into its second year at the Hungry Brain, in which fiction writers, poets, standups, manifestoers, pamphleteers and others are asked to do something outside the bounds of the norm, whether leaving behind the page and pen or picking it up and doing some live origami or …
Be there: Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont, 8 p.m. on, Jan. 3. Awesome lineup this time round, as always hosted by the charismatic (in more ways than eight) Harold Ray, freshly juiced from a West Virginia Christmas homecoming.
Appalachian death songs by poet Philip Jenks
The suburban angst of Knee Jerk editor Steve Tartaglione
The infamous screeds of past T2H contributor Ling Ma
Bald ambition with Bruce Neal
& Book deck poetry by writer Alexis Buryk
Rhoads’ microfictions “The Pills” and “The Splatterpunks” were featured on the backside of the latest, 37th edition of the T2H broadsheet. He lives and writes in Clarksville, Tenn.
“You killed her,” the snowman said, clutching the pile of already melting snow to his breast, slush running through his icy hands. “Murderer.” Snowflakes drifted from his eyes.
Wintry mix fell from the sky soaking into my pea coat. I looked down at the bumper of my car, now halfway into the front yard of this house. The snowman was unlike the ones I’d seen as a child. Instead of a bunch of stacked snow with a carrot, he looked more like your average man. Just made out of snow. His jawline was reminiscent of a deodorant model. I tried to understand the magnitude of my actions and felt a little weak.
“It was an accident. Honest,” I said. I reached into my wallet and pulled out $35. “Take this.” I assumed the snowman I crushed was his wife.
The snowman batted the money away. “This won’t bring her back,” he said. “She’s dead.”
I beat the sides of my shoes against the front tire of the car and wondered if the snow I was standing in was body parts or regular snow. It all looks the same, I thought.
“I’ll have you locked away,” said the snowman. “You’ll pay for this.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a cell phone and began to dial.
“Who are you calling,” I demanded.
“You’ll see,” the snowman said. “Yes, police? There’s been a murder on the front lawn of 5232 Old Hickory Rd. Yes. He’s standing right here. Please, hurry.” Then the snowman pushed the phone back into his pocket. “The police will be here any moment,” said the snowman, “and then you’ll be sorry.”
“Wait a minute,” I said. “You’re just a snowman. I didn’t commit a crime.”
“Tell that to my daughter,” the snowman said.
The road was dead silent. Someone would have to be crazy to drive in weather like this. I asked myself why I was driving in weather like this.
I had to apologize to her in person, I thought. My girlfriend and I had been arguing on the phone this morning over getting engaged. She wants to. I don’t until I have more money. When she hung up on me I thought the best way to apologize was to drive in the blizzard to bring her flowers.”
Now I was stuck with a snowman who wanted me tried for murder.
“The police will be here any minute now,” the snowman said.
The weather was getting worse. Small ice pellets began to pelt my shoulders. My fingers shook inside my gloves.
“Too cold for you?” the snowman asked. He was bent over the snowy remains of his child. “Don’t worry. It will be pretty warm where you’re going.” Then the snowman spit a wad of black sludge in my face — the kind of slushy ice that accumulates in the wheel wells of cars and in the gutters of busy streets.I wiped the sludge from my eyes and opened my car door.
“Don’t you dare try to flee the scene,” yelled the snowman.
I sat down in the driver’s seat and closed the door. Looking for heat, I cranked the car. But it wouldn’t turn. I turned the ignition again and stomped on the pedals but the car sputtered and stalled. Fuck, I thought.
The snowman was beating on the glass of the door so hard that he was breaking off great chunks of his hands as he pounded. A stream of curse words spewed from his icy lips.
I opened the door and climbed back out of the car. As if a switch had been flipped, the snowman went back to quietly glaring at me.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I know that’s not enough, but I’m sorry.”
The snowman stared into the street in the burgeoning white-out.
I pulled out my phone and tried to dial my girlfriend again. I paused as the phone rang and rang. I hung up.
Why was I waiting around for the police to show up? No jury in the world would convict me for running over a snowman. I looked around. The road was still empty of traffic. I looked up the yard toward the house. “Maybe I can call a cab,” I said to myself. I walked a few feet toward the house and the next thing I knew, I was swept from my feet.
The snowman had tackled me and was pounding me with his frozen limbs. He piled his glacial body on top of me, pinning me to rock-hard mud below. I tried to push him off, but his weight was too great. Buried alive in the snowman’s body, I wished I’d never fought with my girlfriend. I sensed my death would be a result of foolish pride as my nostrils clogged with snow and I felt water drip down the back of my throat.
And then there were sirens and a police car pulled next to mine.
“I tried to stop him from fleeing,” the snowman called out, collecting himself from me.
I thanked God that the police officer was here. I was sure once things were settled he would let me go. Maybe he would give me a ride to my girlfriend’s place. I could borrow my mother’s engagement ring until we could afford our own. We could all work things out.
I picked myself up from the mud to see a pair of black boots attached to crystalline legs made of purest white step out of the police cruiser.
Hildy is holding Nemo under his front legs with one arm, letting his hind legs and tail sway back and forth under his bloated stomach. She is calling him “my baby” and reaching for a popsicle that I am holding just out of her reach, just for the hell of it. Every time she reaches for it, I pull it away and Hildy jerks forward to try and reach it again. In this manner, she has stepped on Nemo’s tail four times, each time sending a low growl up into his throat like a pump organ. I hold the popcicle over my head. Sticky red syrup drips onto Hildy’s mom’s couch, which is new and white leather and wraps around the perimeter of our living room. We have the same dad, but regardless, Hildy is a pretty stupid kid. She’s nowhere near old enough to have a baby and Nemo is a cat. It’s fairly obvious.
“Is that your baby?” I ask her as I bite the top off the popsicle, “Is that your big ugly baby, Hildy?” the remainder of the popsicle between my cheek and bottom teeth.
She erupts in a wail that sends Nemo flying. “Can you say ‘pussy,’ Hlldy?” I say. “Go tell mom your big fat pussy ran away, Hildy,” the popcicle melting down the side of my face.
“Jeremy,” Hildy’s mom says, suddenly in the doorway. “We are using ‘vagina,’ and you know it. Don’t you have homework to do?”
When my mom lived here we had a regular fabric couch but at least she wore normal pants. Hildy’s mom wears loungewear and even when she was pregnant her velour track pants were tight enough to make out every curve of each cheek. She caught me looking at them once and told me I should have seen them ten years ago — “They were Gods,” she told me, “Gods.” –Summers
“Oh no oh no!” she said, crouched, top of the slide. “You’re falling, you’re falling!” She let go of the boy’s hands and he slid down on his stomach, feet first, laughing. “Aw,” she lamented when he reached the bottom. “You don’t have any hands, little doggy. Your paws can’t hold on. Try it again, c’mon c’mon.”
And the boy rattled over gravel on hands and knees, barking, around the bottom of the slide to the ladder, still barking, up in quick steps and pulls with newfound climbing joy and, laughing now, back to the platform where she chastised him for climbing – “Doggies can’t go up ladders,” then: “I am God,” she said, “I’m killing you.” She quickly extended her right arm, finger pointed in his direction, striking him down.
He barked, falling onto his stomach, barking again, laughing. She was “my favorite,” he’d told his mother. Her father could at least see that he was her’s too, unlike most of the other three-year-olds willfully, easily dominated in celestial gaming. He wondered, watching from outside the fence, across the playground, what God meant to her other than the ability to kill, where exactly she’d first heard the word.
“Oh no oh no oh no!” she shouted this time, letting go of the boy’s hands. But he did not slide. He held on, laughing as she waved her paws in his face, then relented – “OK OK OK” — and laid belly-down next to him, her hands like his gripping the edge of the platform.
They were gods, one and all. “Ready, set,” she said, and they both let go. –Dills
Shortly after I first moved to Chicago, I was riding the Red Line at a time when no one wants to ride the Red Line. Around 2:45 in the morning, at the Granville stop, a couple boarded. I’d guess they were in their 50s, the man dressed in a large suit the color of the deepest red sunset, when the light in the sky is humming at its lowest frequency. It had shoulder pads somewhere between Brian Urlacher and Murphy Brown, and sequins squinted out in well-worn patches. I can’t describe the dress the woman wore, except to ask if you remember how at one time women’s dresses were made out of an almost dangerous gold-metal fabric that looked like foil. It was arranged in impossible shapes. It didn’t even appear sewn together, just bunches of dress-like substance orbiting her body.
They were tired, these two. We shared the car with a few somnolent drunks. I wasn’t drunk, but I was stupid at the sight of this couple. I stared at them with no shame. Just laser focus through the murky CTA dust-light. They smiled and talked to no one. I couldn’t imagine what world they’d just emerged from, certainly one long closed off to me. They were used to being stared at, or once were. Once, they were gods, probably.
When I was a bored kid, I would crack the spines of my brother’s D&D reference volumes, the ones that detailed the miscellany of creatures of various dead mythologies. What always fascinated me were the horrifyingly inconsequential divinities, the ones that, right beneath their names, were labeled “Lesser God,” like Tyr, the god of combat who only had one hand. It seemed like such an unnecessary downgrade. I understood it in some cases, I guess, like with the God of Apples. That’s a pretty lesser god.
Later, I realized that Chicago is a city of lesser gods. So many fiefdoms and cults and walled communities full of their own mythologies. That couple on the Red Line, royalty in some netherworld. A one-legged vendor on Maxwell Street once tried to sell me a stolen bicycle by demonstrating how he could ride it one-legged. It didn’t work but I could tell it had in the past and would again. He’s a lesser god. Sharkula, the rapper, his whole existence screams chaotic neutral, and someone out there worships him as a lesser god. Cynthia Plaster Caster, Rich Koz, Jojo Baby, Miguel del Valle and the puppet bike. Lesser gods, minor Midwestern divinities, all of them. –Messinger
Fine stuff to share today, a performance from my Philly reading a couple weeks back, touring with the All Hands On book, with Ryan Eckes, Pete Richter and Mickey Hess — all fine and dandy humans with ever capable pens, typing fingers and brains, it’s certain.
Joining Hess and Richter for a Nerves of Steel-worthy performance of Hess’ classic short “The Novelist & the Rapper” (I know it’s been years since I first read it, and Hess reminds me that I made some suggestions on an early draft related to an appearance of headdresses) was a gent who performs under the name Traum Diggs, otherwise known as Dave, doing something behind Richter and Hess’ Q&A he hadn’t done since 1987 — namely, beatboxing, a full marathon-quantity of it too (the story’s a solid 10+ min. affair). Enjoy the vid below, and thanks to all who participated in and came out to the Brickbat reading. Great times, all around. (Oh a-and download Diggs’ new “Black Champion” EP here.)
And speaking of Nerves of Steel, our Chicago performance series resumes Tuesday at Hungry Brain. Details via this link.
Catch Chicago writer and editor Mason Johnson live, performing with Daniel Shapiro, at our Nerves of Steel event Tuesday, Dec. 6 at the Hungry Brain in Chi. Details here.
3/8, 2:38 p.m.
I found a bump — a pimple or wart or something — while pooping at 2:30 p.m.: the optimal time to poop. Even though the bump is not on my penis, it is in the general penis vicinity, which is a little worrying.
I think that I will keep this bump a secret.
I’d have investigated the bump more, but I had to get back to my desk before Miranda saw that I was gone. I’ve realized that I take too many washroom breaks. That I pee a lot. I fear Miranda will notice how often I urinate. That, because of my geriatric bladder, she will find me an unsuitable mate. Will not want to fuck me.
Miranda cannot know how often I pee.
3/8, 6:45 p.m.
At home, I stare at the bump amongst my brown, wire-like pubes. It’s a lone bump on an otherwise flat surface. A lonely bump. I worry that it might be too lonely, being the only one of its kind on my lanky, alabaster body, but have no desire for it to multiply.
I am torn.
3/10, 3 p.m.
The bump has grown to three times its initial size; it shadows my pubic hair, reaching for the sky to fly to freedom, but it’s grounded and weighed down. Weighed down by me.
Weighed down like me.
I feel for it.
My belt rubs against it. Shocks of pain emanate through my body. Like a message. Like the bump is trying to say something.
Maybe I should stop wearing belts, but my slacks would look ridiculous. What would Miranda think?
What would Miranda think? Is she pro-belt?
I saw her in the elevator earlier. Stood in the back, debating whether to make small talk or not, but I couldn’t stop wondering if that liquid I was leaning in was urine. Sometimes the delivery boy pees in the elevator. Sometimes I lean in it.
Not on purpose.
I didn’t end up talking to Miranda. I did notice that she’s shaped like a shell-less turtle though. A beautiful, shell-less turtle.
I want to be her shell.
3/16, 10:43 a.m.
And then it was gone. The bump and its voice, whispering in electronic vibrations, the sound of digital watches. Yes, the bump hurt, but the pain spoke to me. The bump told me it loved me, it triumphed through my days with me, the bump complained with me — the weather, the traffic, the assholes, complaining about the asshole who pisses in the elevator. Together the bump and I would imagine punishing this man, tying this man’s penis to the back of a Ford truck, driving off at full speed, his penis still attached, let’s see if he pisses in the elevator now, we’d imagine saying. The bump and I talked about how we would record this, making it into the single most effective piece of advertising in existence, selling Ford trucks like they were hot cakes, the hottest cakes, making millions. Most of all, what was missing after the bump seemed to disappear was that feeling of longing we shared. The lemmings we would send each other, our sighs, pronounced Miranda.
I saw Miranda in the hallway on my way to the washroom. She said hey and I replied by saying, “I wanted to give you everything, but I no longer have it. It has popped out of existence. I am so sorry.”
I didn’t say this with words. Obviously. I said this with my eyes. I have very descriptive eyes.
In a bathroom stall I saw that the entirety of my crotch was covered in goo. Green, like Chicago relish. I put my finger in it — it was viscous. I put my finger in my mouth — it was tasty, like cheap candy, like watermelon Jolly Ranchers. The taste brought the beat of the bump back tenfold, the tap-tap-tapping of the bump on my brain, like fingernails on a wooden table.
I knew what to do.
3/19, 12:36 p.m.
Miranda’s birthday: our boss brought a platter of cookies and made Miranda wear the office sombrero as everyone sang to her.
People introduced themselves to me.
“Hi, when’d you start workin’ here?”
“Two years ago.”
I didn’t have a present for Miranda, per se, but I did have something I wanted her to have inside of her.
As everyone sang, I put my hand down my pants, touching the bump that was now constantly leaking ooze, and rubbed said ooze onto two cookies from the platter.
The moment everyone was done singing, I handed Miranda the cookies.
“Two-cookie minimum for the birthday girl,” I said
She’d have smiled, but she was too touched to show an expression.
She took the plate and bit into a cookie and then, well, she choked.
Her mouth made the shape of an O, but no scream came out. “Somebody help!” one coworker yelled.
“Is there a doctor here?” I imagined another coworker screaming, to make things more dramatic.
We didn’t need a doctor, though. I knew exactly what to do.
Having never been trained in the Heimlich maneuver, I went to the only important training I’ve obtained in my life: my karate training. For my 12th birthday, my uncle Joe had gotten me a month’s worth of lessons. I learned only one thing in that month: how to thrust my fist into someone’s solar plexus, popping their lungs like rubber balloons, forcing every air molecule out of their body.
Finally, I thought. I can use my deadly hands for something good.
I wasn’t going to waste any time, I punched Miranda immediately. Hard. Quickly. In the middle of her chest.
That bitch went down like a ton of bricks.
On the ground she was red cheeked and winded, but alive. She stared up at me, her eyes wet, her two chins miserable, but she was grateful for her savior.
She was grateful for me.
3/20, 10:32 p.m.
HR sent me home for the rest of the week. Said I needed “a rest.” They are rewarding me. I’ve saved the life of a valued employee. They owe me. They said we’d talk come Monday about my future with the company.
This can only mean good things.
I will walk in Monday morning and, for once, I will not rush to my desk, avoiding the gaze of strangers. Instead, the strangers will meet my eyes. They well pat me on the back, one after another. Standing before my cubicle will be Miranda. She will be blushing, her eyes will be looking down at her feet, in her hands will be a box of chocolates. “I wasn’t sure how to say thank you,” she’ll whisper.
“Silly,” I’ll say. “I’m supposed to give you candy, Sugar.”
Yes, I will call her Sugar. It will become my nickname for her, both in and out of the bedroom.
And then I will take her in my arms. I will lean her to the side. I will kiss her.
Then I’ll get a promotion.
My life with Miranda will be wonderful. The bump might be a third wheel, yes, but a good third wheel. Like a tricycle. She may even grow little bumps of her own, scattered around her body like treasures that I’ll search out as if I’m on an Easter egg hunt.
Most of all, we’ll be happy. Together. Perfect.
Miranda, the bump and I.