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.
After a years’ worth of shows at the Hungry Brain, after the old home week blowout with longtime T2Hers Joe Meno, Marc Baez, Fred Sasaki, C.T. Ballentine and our humble editor (oh a-and Harold Ray, but of course, made his indelible mark on the October night, too), we’re back with a fancy program Tuesday, Dec. 6, at Hungry Brain. Following check out the deets. Follow the links for more about/from the performers.
So You Think You Have Nerves of Steel?
8 p.m. Tuesday, December 6, 2011
@Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont, Chicago, FREE
Blonde Ambition by Jac Jemc (whose first novel is due next year and who published this story in THE2NDHAND a couple years back)
Stand-up w/ a hand-up (your arse) w/ Natalie Edwards
Advice for the Damned from Irby + Ian
Some Kind of Wonderful: Mason Johnson & Daniel Shapiro
MUSIC BY: Harold Ray & the Post-Revolutionary Letdowns, w/ variations on shooting yerself in the face & how it don’t hurt
& HOUSE BAND Good Evening
Let it be known that when there are challengers there are challengers. One calls to front brain wellsprings of people power sweeping certain distant locales and our own calcified North American adventures of yore, perhaps also in my mind at least the brightening though perhaps still quite dim star of Califone in the pantheon of candidates for Band of a Particular Generation of Which I Am Part, stiff competition for the most consistent, at least, or Radiohead.
Chicago insurgent Mason Johnson came into the Hungry Brain last Tuesday night planning on out-Nerving — or, perhaps, out-Steeling — our own Harold Ray, host of the Nerves of Steel performance series and, well, one tough son of a bitch. Johnson went so far as to build his own parodic event flyer in which he proclaimed his prowess, and there was much online verbal abuse hurled back and forth in the run-up to the event. WWF/E-style theatrics — razorblades, chest-thumping, neck-tendon-tightening growling, etc. — seemed the order of the day.
Needless to say, as results are clear from the picture above (that’s Ray in the wifebeater, Johnson in the karate outfit getting whipped; pic from Untoward mag), the ever-more-lit West Virginian Ray emerged triumphant, a victory Untoward Mag attributed to his “mountain man’s grit,” among other things. Get over there and read their account.
This year’s Chicago snowmageddon, I’m happy to note, didn’t outrank my personal midwest winter initiation. After moving to the Chi in the fall of 1998 from the humid climes of Rock Hill, S.C., come the holidays I was back in S.C. but left early. A blizzard was predicted, see, and I was to start a new job Jan. 2 in Evanston, of all places. I motored back to Chicago in time for New Year’s Eve, as the snow began sometime early the next morning, not stopping for the next 24 hours. I was at that new job the following day, a near-four-hour public transit nightmare (never been so damn cold in my life, standing hopping foot to foot on the platform at Diversey, running in place, etc. etc.). That, friends, still sits in the history books as the No. 2 biggest Chicago snow, hell of an initiation rite for a Southerner. I have nerves of steel. Nah, but ’twas a great time to pretend.
Fortunately, in 1999 THE2NDHAND was just beginning to rise in my brain — we wouldn’t launch for another year — and there were no readings to cancel. Our Nerves of Steel event last Tuesday coincided directly with the worst of the recent white torment, and we unfortunately had to cancel as participants, well, faced travel nightmares to and from the Hungry Brain. We’ll be featuring all — Tomorrow Kings, Mairead Case, Marc Baez and more — in upcoming installments of the event, we hope, the next one to take place March 1.
Meantime, disheartened by the decidedly un-nervy cancellation, Chicago writer Mason Johnson reportedly had his own “Mason Johnson has Nerves of Steel” extravaganza at Moe’s on the northwest side (Central Park and Milwaukee). Check out the partial results.
ALL HANDS ON
The final day to preorder a copy of All Hands On: THE2NDHAND After 10 (our 10th-anniversary reader) via our Kickstarter campaign is Feb. 16. Reserve your copy. Sometime on the evening of Wednesday, Jan. 26, we hit the funding goal, so barring a disaster the project’s a go. Among features will be special-section author illustrations, some of which are leaked below, in process, by former THE2NDHAND design man Rob Funderburk — my favorite working painter, no doubt, and one of my favorite illustrators (he’s also a longtime and great friend, of course). Working from photos in many cases (most of the subjects he’s trying capture in portraits he’s never met), he’s been experimenting with all manner of techniques on these, as you can see. The technique behind the Michael Peck il Rob describes this way: “Laid paper over source photos on a lightbox, used flat side v. pointy corner of a graphite stick to render.” Makes it sounds simple, right?
Pretty stunning preliminary results, I’ll say. Find more from Rob’s illustration, painting and mural work, as well as framed watercolors and maquettes and a screen-printed study of the Chicago Rookery building, at robfunderburk.com. Or read his blog.
AND NASHVILLE, TAKE HEED
ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION THIS COMING WEEKEND.
THE2NDHAND anniversary celebration | 11 years to the day after our first-ever release party
Saturday, Feb. 12, 7 p.m.
@ Portland Brew, 1921 Eastland Ave., Nashville, Tenn.
THE2NDHAND AFTER 10: A NASHVILLE READING Four days before the end of ourKickstarter.com campaign to raise $2,000 to print our 10th-anniversary anthology, All Hands On, THE2NDHAND’s editors and contributors gather at this event to present new writing and work to be published in the book, with performances by:
*T2H shapeshifting collaborative writing crew of the Pitchfork Battalion
*T2H Louisville, Ky.-based coeditor C.T. Ballentine (whose “Friedrich Nietzsche Waits for a Date” novella is featured in its entirety in the All Hands On book)
*Birmingham-based Nadria Tucker, a frequent T2H contributor, with a special section in the book
*Nashville’s own Matt Cahan, whose “Coyote Business,” a short exploring the cultural connections between Mexico and the United States excerpted from his “Straight Commission” novel in progress, via the tale of a group of would-be Mexican migrants and a U.S. chemical salesman, is among new work featured in AHO
*Susannah Felts, Nashville-based author of the novel This Will Go Down on Your Permanent Record
*Nashville-based Henry Ronan-Daniell
Nashville-based wood-block printmaker Martin Cadieux will be on-hand showcasing his print work for THE2NDHAND’s Kickstarter campaign, among other work.