Wrought Ferrous

I once trained a trout to swim backwards, but only because I had radioactive materials at my disposal. I worked for a company that used radiation in down-hole equipment to take surveys while drilling oil wells, and the specifics are boring as hell, but in short, we’d have to calibrate the equipment in the shop with a small radioactive source that was about the size of a tootsie roll. I’d have to open a little shielded metal box, back up as quickly as possible, and let one of my coworkers grab the source with a long pole and then stick it into a long tubular tool for calibration. Then we’d submerge the tool in a large tank full of water and start doing all sorts of scientific stuff. It always felt as if my intestines were writhing around inside of me while the source was out in the air, but I’m sure it was all in my head. We’d use cesium or cobalt which are both rather scary elements, but I had my trusty TLD badge and the assurances of my supervisor that everything would be just fine. No big deal.

 

Eventually the long hours got to us and we got bored. Seriously though; if you could experiment with radiation, would you do it? Yup. We caught a few trout at a nearby lake and brought them back to the shop and dropped them in the tank. The thing was 40’ by 8’ by 6’ so the little guys had all sorts of room; the surface of the water attracted all sorts of insects so they had plenty of food. We started thinking that our experiments were bunk until the little guys started swimming backwards, which I had always thought was impossible, but nobody told that to Chernobyl or Fallout Boy (I was pretty proud of the names I came up with for the two ill fated fish). Anyway, they managed it by holding their tails perfectly still and swimming only with their pectoral fins.

 

The fish eventually died and we had to drain the tank to clean it. Our operations manuals didn’t specifically address the possibility, but a few of us started thinking that fish crap might foul up the calibration process. After the tank was drained and cleaned, I took a picture of it. Then I copied the picture and made it into a negative, juxtaposed it against the original picture, and entitled it “Yin Yang.” I won an “honorable mention” in a small-time photography contest with the piece, and it all snowballed from there. I started taking all sorts of pictures around the shop of odd industrial things that most people wouldn’t recognize; my ultimate goal was to self publish a book of photography entitled “wrought ferrous” but I never got around to it. I’ve decided to take about half of the pictures from that old collection and post them here just for the hell of it.

 

Yin Yang

YinYang

9 Log

9log

2006_08_23

2006_08_23

Amphitheater

This is just a device used to measure o-rings, but it reminded me of an amphitheater from an old Bugs Bunny cartoon.

Amphitheater

Ape Man

The lubricant most often used in the oilfield is copper based; this is what a new five gallon bucket of the stuff looks like when you take off the lid.

Apeman

Auger

Auger

Bent CD

Bent CD

Blood

Blood

Blue Tooth

Blue Tooth

Bored

Bored

Box

Box

Buff

Buff

Chain

Chain

Coast

Coast

Depth

Depth

Drip

Drip

Fangoin

Fangoin

Fish

Fish

Fishnet

Fishnet

Flapper

Flapper

Floor

Floor

Frost Forest

The Alaskan winters get so cold that little forests of frost start growing up from the snow on the ground. I took a picture of it.

Frost Forest

Grate

Grate

Hoist

Hoist

Melon

Rainwater had collected on top of a drum of kerosene; I hit the side with a sledge hammer and snapped a picture.

Melon

Moon’s Wave

Moon's Wave

Mouse

(You’ll have to click on it to see it)

Mouse

Rift

Rift

Riggor

Riggor

Salt

Salt

Scribble

Scribble

Shark Skin

Shark Skin

Superman

Superman

Telescope

Telescope

Whytube

Whytube

 

***

 

Anyway, I write and sell books (that have absolutely nothing to do with photography) and they never cost more than a dollar. If you’re a fan of fiction, you should check out Trailer Park Juggernauts here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00704HK6Q  If you’re a fan of real life with just a sprinkling of fiction, you should check out Ephemeral Truths and Short Fiction here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AYRAXNI

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Norway

The cat pawed at the dead mouse, tearing open its little stomach, then started pulling out the wet pearls of intestine. I stood there quietly; I knew that cats ate mice, but only via hearsay, and it was a bit shocking to be this close to the morbid truth. My mom said that I should look away if it bothered me, but I simply couldn’t. I was six, and my family was staying on an old farm in Norway for a few weeks.

 

I looked up from the mouse to the cat and we made eye contact. The housecat mentality had long since been lost thanks to the encroaching wilderness, and I felt as if the animal was deciding whether or not I was edible. I lost the staring contest and we went our separate ways as I followed my parents along an old forest trail that led to a church. The main building was surrounded by aboveground tombs that had enormous slabs on top carved with effigies that had been washed to oblivion by centuries of rain. A few were askew thanks to looters who had also long since died.

 

They let me use the enormous iron key to unlock the door. I felt that surely such a key could only open a pirate’s treasure chest, but the lock clicked and we went in. Living in Alaska, I had never really been exposed to antiquity, so the church came as a shock. It smelled of earth and years and the lead glass windows were actually thicker at the bottom then they were at the top because the glass, being an amorphous solid, had slowly succumbed to gravity. How crazy is that? My dad told me that even the newest part of the church was older than anything back in the United States. It felt sacred.

 

On the way back to the farm house where we were staying, we got word that a bull was loose. My parents went running towards the noise all the while yelling at me to stay back, but I simply couldn’t. We got there in time to see the bull, covered in mud and greenish manure, run into a small building along the trail. Tom, the farm’s caretaker, went in after it but came back out shortly after spitting blood and holding his jaw. The bull burst from the little building and started running away. My dad chased it, which I thought was awesome, but then the bull turned on him. It wasn’t a really big bull, but anything big enough to be called a bull is big enough to take seriously. But then again, so was my dad.

 

He grabbed the bull by the horns, literally, twisted and heaved, and then slammed a few hundred pounds of hamburger into the mud. Tom came running and tied the thing up and left it there writhing in the mud until they could figure out what to do next. I was awestruck. First the mouse, then the church and its mystical key, and then I got to watch my dad beat up a cow. Are you frickin’ kidding me? It was shaping up to be one hell of a day.

 

We went back into the farmhouse and cleaned up before dinner. Oddly enough, I have no remembrance of what we ate, but afterwards, Tom’s two toe head twins, Christopher and Cecilia, took me by the hand and drug me out to the barn and up a latter into the hayloft. Neither of the two spoke any English and I only spoke enough Norwegian to say “a thousand thanks” which doesn’t get you very far. We had long since reverted to that odd unspoken, giggling type of communication kids eventually grow out of, and through it, I figured out that they wanted me to jump off of the hayloft into a pile of hay that was a good twenty feet below us. My eyes said “no way,” Cecilia’s said “you’re a chicken,” mine said “oh yeah?” and then I jumped. Like the rest of the day, it was simply awesome. My little legs couldn’t carry me up the latter fast enough to do it a second time, or a third or a fourth. I clearly remember the musky smell of the yellow hay and the way it covered me as I lay in it. I envied the animals that lived in the barn. I recalled all sorts of nonsensical stories from bedtimes past and wondered what it’d be like to spin the straws around me into gold. We ended the night by throwing handfuls of hay at each other; to the twins it was commonplace, to me it was a novelty. I slept, and the rest of the trip has long since faded in my memory except for odd little flashes that I can’t place.

 

If you’ve ever eaten a Lay’s potato chip, then you’ve eaten a potato grown by a Navajo consortium that operates an enormous swath of land referred to simply as the Napi. I’m pretty sure it’s an acronym, but I don’t know what it stands for and I don’t care enough to Google it and find out. Anyway, all of Lay’s potatoes are grown right here in Northern New Mexico, and I often drive through the endless fields on my way to natural gas wells. The wells spot the expansive fields of rolling earth like odd little mechanized islands floating in an artificial ocean of vegetation. It’s easy to get lost, and I almost did last week, but I pulled over to the side of the road to get out and stretch and make a phone call. That’s when I saw the hay.

 

There, close to where I parked, was the most hay I had ever seen. I guess that’s not really saying much and I suppose it’s also a rather ridiculous statement, but whatever. There had to be at least one hundred thousand bails, each of which was bigger than my truck, stacked two stories high and lined up in long rows. The smell hit me and snapped me back to that farm in Norway like some sort of olfactory flashback and I stood there, stuck in my reverie and staring at the hay, until a truck full of passing Navajos honked at me. I can’t really blame them; I doubt they often see slack jawed white guys wearing hard hats and FRC coveralls staring up at their hay. I got back in my truck, pulled on to the road, back into the here and now, and then drove away.

Hay

***

 

Anyway, I write and sell books and they never cost more than a dollar. If you’re a fan of fiction, you should check out Trailer Park Juggernauts here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00704HK6Q  If you’re a fan of real life with just a sprinkling of fiction, you should check out Ephemeral Truths and Short Fiction here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AYRAXNI

The Shell Game

I’ve never been knocked unconscious, but I learned what it meant to “see stars” when I was six. I suppose my father had been drinking, but that might just be an assumption. I was sitting Indian style on the linoleum in front of the toilet. My father was sitting on the toilet doing his business and my mother stood in the doorway; everything was washed with light from a late afternoon and a few incandescent bulbs. This was the early eighties and it felt like it. The bathroom was decorated in earth tones. My father’s hair was enormous as was his beard. My mom looked like a hippie and I was wearing corduroys. They were my favorite pants.

 

My father had just finished assembling three different Lego sets; they were all small and placed right in front of him on the floor. All three sets were medieval; one was of a horse and carriage, one was of a catapult manned by a group of armored Lego men, and the third was a tiny prisoner transport complete with bars and a little imprisoned figure that looked suspiciously like Robin Hood. My crystalline memory is a sweet and sour type of power.

 

Pops looked down on me from upon his porcelain throne and told me not to touch any of the Legos until he was done. I remember staring at the three toys, arrayed perfectly equidistant from each other, and thinking that surely there was one toy I could touch without angering him. Maybe he wouldn’t even notice. I reached for the horse drawn prisoner transport after a subjective eternity and had time to move it ever so slightly closer to where I sat before my father hit me. And it wasn’t a gentle reprimanding type of slap either. Sure it was open handed, but my father was a three hundred pound behemoth of a man and the power in his right hand carried me across the linoleum and deposited me in a small heap against the shower stall. Everything went black and brilliant points of white floated in my vision. I remember thinking “so that’s why they draw stars” and that thought is verbatim; I swear I’m not taking any poetic license in the telling of this story. Up until that point, I had always thought the stars that rotated around the coyote’s head after the roadrunner bested him were nonsensical.

 

My mom came running in and screamed something unintelligible. She was coming for me, I saw it all from where I was laying on my side against the shower, but I guess my dad felt threatened. He stood up and went after her with his open hand cocked back but since he hadn’t pulled up his sweat pants as he stood, my mom was able to get away. He hobbled after her like a penguin as she shouted “don’t you hit me!” and I suppose hysterics are to blame for the fact that I look back and laugh at it all.

 

He sat back down after a moment of clarity and never noticed that he had broken the miniature catapult during his tirade. My mom came back in a few seconds later and got me. She carried me away and down the stairs and out of the house. They simply don’t make Mother’s Day cards that you can buy to thank a mother for something like that, but I was fucking grateful.

 

Later, my parents divorced and my father’s burgeoning obsession with Legos matured into something truly epic. He kept all of his assembled sets underneath his queen sized bed where they were organized into little stratified groups. The medieval castles and whatnot where near the foot of the bed. The space inspired sets with rocket ships and transparent laser guns were in the middle and the contemporary sets were directly below the pillows. They started to gather dust as the house suffered without a woman’s touch so my father carefully covered all of the sets with a sheet and there they stayed, like an entombed city of little plastic people, until I was sixteen.

 

I skipped school with two friends, Joey and Chad, and we went to my house to smoke ridiculous amounts of pot while my dad was at work. We got bored. I’m not sure why I did it, but I took my friends into my dad’s bedroom and told them to look under the bed. They got down on their bellies, lifted the sheet, and then slowly turned to look up at me with “what the fuck?” written all over their faces. I laughed, and we started taking all of the painstakingly assembled Lego sets into the living room. We started by doing our best Japanese mega-monster impressions. I was Mothra (because Mothra fucking rules), Joey was Godzilla, and Chad was Mecha Godzilla (there’s a huge difference). We stomped through a veritable city of Lego sets and destroyed like only mega monsters can. Then we sat and played with the damn things for hours. We built all sorts of shit. We had airplanes that’d never fly in real life. We had badass castles with laser guns because that’s how it should’ve been. We built ashtrays, and used them as such, because, well, why not?

 

My father came home sometime after dark and saw the three of us sitting there all pie-eyed and surrounded by the carnage of his Lego collection and just froze. I wasn’t six anymore. My mom had been replaced in this tableau by two eighteen year-old men that were each larger than my dad. He walked into his bedroom and buried himself into a book where he belonged. The three of us went out and got drunk.

 

I’m not sure why I chose to reach for that prisoner transport Lego set when I was six. Maybe it was just the closest, or the coolest, but like I said previously, I had thought that there had to be one of the three sets that I could get away with touching. But I realize now that the whole thing was nothing more than a shell game. When I think of a “shell game”, I think of some deeply tanned islander sitting behind an upturned banana crate with three shells on top. Underneath one of the shells a nut is hidden, and if only you can be fast enough, smart enough, to keep track as his hands blur and the shells shuffle, you’ll always know where the nut is. You’ll be able to tap the right shell with a knowing finger and win a small handful of cash. But the damn game is rigged. Sleight of hand is in play and the nut is swiped before the shells stop moving. You’re damned, no matter which shell you choose, you’ll lose. You’ll see stars.

 

But every silver lining has its cloud, or at least that’s the way I learned it. One of the best things you can learn from your parents is what not to do, and I took notes. My children have Legos, but they live in a tub. I try to avoid the mistakes of my father, and sometimes I fail, but my indiscretions are small in comparison and my odd quirks are leavened with compassion. Hell, as long as neither one of my daughters grow up to be a writer, I’ll be scot-free. And to be a writer is why I wrote this. Someone whose opinion matters greatly to me told me that “if you can write about your life, you can write about anything.” I’m paraphrasing what she had been told by one of her writing teachers, but I think the statement holds truth and I’m doing my best to pay it credence. I sit in front of this computer and try to bleed my thoughts on to paper, as Earnest H. sort of put it, and I write. I sit back and watch my wife read through my writing as she looks for typos, and when she’s through, I write. I remember things from when I was young that are unsavory, and today, I wrote.

Shell Game

 

***

Anyway, I write and sell books and they never cost more than a dollar. If you’re a fan of fiction, you should check out Trailer Park Juggernauts here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00704HK6Q  If you’re a fan of real life with just a sprinkling of fiction, you should check out Ephemeral Truths and Short Fiction here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AYRAXNI

Chokecherry Dichotomy

Those trite little placards people post on Facebook usually piss me off. You know what I’m talking about; they’re usually quotes or vaguely funny one-liners disguised as “eCards” and it seems like they eat up thirty percent of all status updates. However, I saw one the other day that got me thinking. It was a picture of that evolutionary chain depicting man’s progress from something simian to where we’re at now, but the final image was a silhouette of one of those urban douche bags saying “YOLO” and “swag”. The penultimate figure was saying “go back, we fucked up.” Sure, it was just another prosaic internet meme, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t snicker a bit.

YOLO

Sometimes it’s almost like I can feel myself morphing into one of those old bastards who bitches about the way things used to be and I really don’t want to come across like that. It’s nearly impossible for me to identify with the modern urban youth simply because that amount of pretention isn’t palatable. I hate the act and the lingo and the affected limps. But I don’t think that we as a species are headed in the wrong direction. We’ve got scientists that are close to capturing the god particle and using it to do whatever it is you do with a god particle (judge other particles maybe?). We’ve got doctors that are doing full face transplants and politicians that are pushing for legal weed. Not an Olympics goes by wherein at least one record is broken, so yes, pop culture might be at an all time low, but the rest of our species is kicking ass.

 

It’s a federal offence to deface Native rock art. I realize that probably came across as a rather jarring shift in direction, but stick with me. I live in northern New Mexico and it’s easy to go out into the wilderness and find a petroglyph. They’re usually pretty small; a hunting stick figure or a prancing deer or a crude woman with boobs (I guess that last one is the ancient equivalent of “for a good time call”). I enjoy hunting for the petroglyphs though. It feels odd to think that some dude drew the deer or the boobs centuries ago, and to him, it was nothing more than an idle moment of boredom, but to us, people he’d think of as aliens or gods, the small piece of rock art is the only surviving written record of a past era. That’s why the art is taken so seriously. You can spend some serious time in jail and face bankrupting fines if you fuck with a petroglyph.

 

However, Native Americans still have moments of idle boredom, except now, they come armed with rattle cans of spray paint. Not far from town, there’s a red dirt road that ambles through Chokecherry Canyon. You can find petroglyphs and metates and arrow heads and huge chunks of petrified wood. You can also find whisky bottles and mattresses and four-wheeler tracks and profane graffiti. It’s picturesque, it’s disgusting. How weird is that? Pottery shards have been replaced by Budweiser bottles. Spear tips have been replaced by shotgun shells. Look, I know that there will never be some advanced civilization in the future that’ll dig into our lives like we dig in to the past (they’ll hopefully still have Google) but I still think something’s been lost.

Fosters

After a modern Native youth spray paints “420” or “fuck you” on a rock wall is it considered to be a petroglyph? It’s a misdemeanor to spray paint rock walls on state land, but it’s a felony to remove a petroglyph once it’s there. There’s a hilarious double standard buried somewhere in there if you dig for it. Hell, if I could think of an internet meme cheesy enough to encompass what I’m getting at, I’d probably post it on Facebook. But I guess it really wouldn’t be any different than the meme that inspired all of this in the first place. It’d be just as easy for a Native youth to fit into the silhouette shouting out “YOLO” above, and while it’s always been hard for me to read the bubble letters graffiti artists prefer, I’m pretty sure this says KEEP IT SWAG:

Chokecherry

***

 

Anyway, I write and sell books and they never cost more than a dollar. If you’re a fan of fiction, you should check out Trailer Park Juggernauts here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00704HK6Q  If you’re a fan of real life with just a sprinkling of fiction, you should check out Ephemeral Truths and Short Fiction here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AYRAXNI

‘Merica

My wife has a friend who looks a lot like Uma Thurman. She has two adorable kids that are big on their please and thank you’s and every once and a while, they’ll come over to socialize with my two monsters or we’ll take them out. Last time, the wife and I took the foursome to one of those warehouse sized indoor amusement parks that are filled with enormous inflatable playhouses wherein the children get all cracked-out on slushies and nacho cheese and literally bounce from stimulus to stimulus like rabid pin-balls. The place is called Big Bounce, but from what I’ve seen, there’s something similar in any good sized town. Good healthy American fun.

Anyway, as soon as we walked in and sat down, I popped in a pair of those foam ear plugs that expand in your ears like some sort of parasite and I flipped on my Kindle. As soon as that foamy pressure filled my ears and the ungodly cacophony dimmed to white noise, I took a calming breath and imagined an enormous glass bowl lowering slowly around me. It was peace amidst a fructose fueled madhouse. I read for fifteen minutes or so until my wife got bored and shook my shoulder. She knows how much I love the spectator sport of people watching and she had found quite the specimen.

I followed her clandestine nod and found a man in his early fifties with a super sweet salt-and-pepper mullet and a handlebar mustache that was in need of some serious grooming. “In God’s Hands” was boldly printed on his hoodie. He was wearing a Monster energy drink hat, complete with the green claw marks, and he was drinking a Monster as if he were sponsored. Stone washed jeans wrapped up his ensemble nicely. This guy was rockin’ his approximation of “cool” with pride. I guess I’m not old enough to know, but maybe the getup was cool at one point in time. Maybe he was just one of those guys that stagnated when the next movement in fashion came along. Maybe his sense of cool was frozen in carbonite right along with Han Solo.

And that’s when I turned off my Kindle and took the plugs out of my ears. I started looking around as the noise came crashing back in and realized that I was right in the middle of some of the most epic people watching of all time. We were surrounded by bedazzled jeans and crimped hair and neck tattoos. There were fat men with too small shirts that probably couldn’t bend over far enough to see exactly how much they were exposing. There were women that managed to show ass-crack and tramp stamp and piercing all at the same time. It was awesome. I felt like Jane Goodall must’ve amongst her treasured primates.

My wife looked at me and said “you’re probably the smartest person here right now.” Not many things are worthy of a high five but that comment was (but of course we didn’t actually high-five because it would’ve alerted the redneck herd that an outsider was in their midst). I was smugly satisfied for a while until I realized that being the smartest person in Big Bounce is like being the smartest kid on the short bus. Oh well. I leaned back in my chair and started thinking all sorts of random thoughts. I imagined what it’d be like if Big Bounce were suddenly cut off from the rest of the world. Would I manage to take control Lord of the Flies style thanks to my only slightly higher education? I imagined a world without automated dispensers of nacho cheese, because that’s literally what this place had. I imagined the ebola monkey breaking in the front door and running rampant as I laughed like a maniac. I’m not saying they were all pleasant thoughts.

Right in the middle of my somewhat morbid revelry, a three-hundred-pound eleven-year-old walked in front of me. Look, I’m not judging the child here so please don’t get insulted yet. I know it’s the parent’s fault. I know that even the parents probably had to deal with hardship and that they’ve never come within light years of anything resembling nutritional education. I try to have empathy for childhood obesity, but it’s really hard to pull off when the kid is wearing a triple XL “T” shirt that’s covered with pictures of cheese burgers and french-fries. I shit you not. This kid’s shirt looked like it should’ve been a table cloth at McDonalds. The wife and I saw him at the same time and then turned slowly to look at each other with “WTF” expressions. She and I could’ve both fit into this kid’s sweatpants at the same time, and yet his parents had intentionally bought him a shirt that loudly proclaimed a proud love of fatty foods. Unbelievable.

Look; I feed my children trash occasionally. If you look closely in the picture of this kid, you’ll see the multiple slushie cups and ice cream wrappers and troughs of nacho cheese smothered chips that we were feeding our kids, but they see this type of exorbitance as a luxury. It’s an extremely rare frivolity. This poor kid lived his life that way. Every day for him was probably sans vegetable. I really felt for this kid; few things make me sad but this truly did. And it was impossible to stop thinking about it too, because even when you couldn’t see him, it was easy to tell exactly where he was. You could look out over the inflatable playhouses and see one of them swaying a good deal more than the others. It was like watching that T-Rex walk thought the forest in Jurassic Park 2. It’s impossible for me to not make comparisons like that. I hope you’ll forgive me.

The stress of that much excitement and sugar finally got to the four kids we were responsible for and they started to flock back to us. You could tell that one or two of them had cried at some point. One of mine was staring wide-eyed off into the distance as if her mind had finally snapped thanks to too much chocolate and cardio. My other child was sticky wherever not protected by clothing. They had had a great time, but it was time to go. We walked out past incoming hoards of children that would also make for some great people watching someday and finally made it to the parking lot. I watched the front door for a while as my children were buckling in and made the off-hand comment to my wife that Big Bounce should change their name to ‘Merica. We both laughed, but in hindsight, maybe we should’ve thought a bit harder about what we were laughing at.

***

Anyway, I write and sell books and they never cost more than a dollar. If you’re a fan of fiction, you should check out Trailer Park Juggernauts here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00704HK6Q If you’re a fan of real life with just a sprinkling of fiction, you should check out Ephemeral Truths and Short Fiction here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AYRAXNI

Burger Shirt

Thai-Rannosaurus Rex

Remember that somewhat hypnotic game they used to play on Sesame Street wherein they’d put a smattering of images on the screen and ask you to figure out which one didn’t belong? They’d play that “one of these things is not like the others” song to give you time to figure it out. I was really good at that game, but then again, I suppose it’s pretty easy to figure out that a Martian has no place amongst a bunch of bouncy balls or whatever. Side note: those Martians with the floppy mouths who only said “yup” over and over were my favorites. Anyway, whenever I see something that doesn’t quite belong in a group of inanimate objects, that song starts playing in my head. Who knows; maybe there was nothing “somewhat hypnotic” about that game. Maybe PBS used it to brainwash/mentally program me and one of these days, secret agent Big Bird will show up with a picture of a Martian amongst bouncy balls and I’ll snap. You simply never know. We’ll get back to this in a second.

 

I love fresh spring rolls from Thai restaurants unequivocally; they represent culinary perfection. I love that translucent rice paper and the crisp lettuce and the boiled shrimp and that fresh bite of basil. I love that cloyingly sweet sauce that comes with them and the crushed peanuts that float on the top like some sort of nutty flotsam. So whenever I get a chance, I get a to-go order of fresh spring rolls from this little Thai joint in downtown Farmington. Boon’s is the only Thai restaurant in this little town and I know I’ve said a few disparaging things about the joint (if you’re interested, click here: https://thevelveteenmaraca.wordpress.com/2012/04/08/ramen-illusions/), but Boon’s definitely has the best ethnic food in town. True, having the “best ethnic food” in this shitty redneck haunt is like having the best high-five in a room full of double amputees, but that’s irrelevant.

 

I called in such a to-go order this past Tuesday but I showed up early and had to wait. They were nice enough to give me a free iced tea in one of those enormous white Styrofoam cups that hold something like fifty-seven gallons of fluid so I had no problem with the wait. Boon’s has its problems, but the place is authentic. There’s even a cool little shrine up front, right by the cash register, which the cooks surround with small bowls of brown rice or day old soup to pay homage to a golden deity with a plump smile and praying hands. There’s a display case right below the shrine and as soon as I looked at it, that damn “one of these things is not like the others” song started playing in my head. Stupid Big Bird and his stupid mental programming.

 

The case was filled with all sorts of things you’d expect; there were challises covered in cloisonné and little turtles and geisha girl figurines and oriental wood carvings… and a plastic dinosaur. Like I said, I’m really good at this game. I wanted to stand up and point at the dinosaur and shout something like “Hey! It’s the green T-Rex! It doesn’t belong!” but I didn’t because I’m a grown-up. But then again, some other grown-up had put that dinosaur in where it obviously didn’t belong. Why? It made absolutely no sense until I was licking sauce from my fingers and halfway home. And then… boom! I had a go-go-gadget epiphany. That was no regular plastic dinosaur. It was a Thai-Rannosaurus Rex.

 

***

 

Anyway, I write and sell books and they never cost more than a dollar. If you’re a fan of fiction, you should check out Trailer Park Juggernauts here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00704HK6Q  If you’re a fan of real life with just a sprinkling of fiction, you should check out Ephemeral Truths and Short Fiction here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AYRAXNI

T Rex

Game Genie

I’m not going to pretend as if I’ve got thousands of fans who’ve been asking me to post more fiction, but there have been a few, and this is for them. I wrote what follows after an editor that recently accepted some of my work suggested that I try to write in present tense. That’s really all I had in mind when I started typing this:

Game Genie

He walks into the gallery and immediately feels cleaner as a sterile wave of white light washes over him. Someone had taken the time to paint all the walls a brilliant white before hanging the art. And they hadn’t used something off-white like “egg shell” or “Italian shore” to make things neutral; this room had been painted in antiseptic bleached-bone white. It is glowing around him.

What’s the difference between a gallery and a boutique? Did one simply portray things while the other sold them? Maybe one offers finger food while the other strictly forbids it. He didn’t know. What he knew was that one painting, standing out like a klaxon among wind chimes, drew him to the far corner. Another man stands in front of it weeping. His suit is also white. Maybe if he were to pull it over his head and stand super still against the wall he could disappear. The first man smiles and realizes that the second is wearing art gallery camouflage.

The first man walks over and bathes in the painting’s color. It’s a fantasy landscape awash in perfection. This is what artists dream of. This is what real life wishes it could be. This is what would be at the end of a Skittles rainbow. Holy shit it’s just freaking awesome. Maybe that’s what it is. Maybe the artist had succeeded in making “awesome” a noun and then nailed it to the brilliant white wall.

“Why are you crying?” The first man doesn’t take his eyes away from the painting as he speaks to the second.

“I painted this.” The second man, still weeping, doesn’t turn either.

“That doesn’t make any sense. You should be jumping up and down and giving strangers high-fives or something. This painting is simply divine.”

“You don’t fucking get it, man,” silence stretches for a bit as salty tears fall in rivulets to dampen the man’s white suit or splash on white marble. “Fuck it. You wanna know? Fine.” The second man takes a slow breath. One of the long ones we all take before telling a story so we can order the nonsense into sentences. “Did you ever have a Game Genie when you were a kid?”

“No. No idea what that is.”

“It was for the old school Nintendo systems. You see, it was a golden piece of plastic. Sort of like a little box. All you had to do was stick your Nintendo game into the Game Genie, and then stick your game Genie into the Nintendo. It gave you three wishes, like infinite lives or invincibility or the ability to jump extra high.”

“Still no idea what you’re talking about.”

“That’s not really the point anyway. I must’ve had thirty or forty games for my Nintendo when I was a kid but I couldn’t really beat any of them. When I got the Game Genie, I beat them all. But that damn golden piece of plastic stole something from me. The games got boring and I quit playing them. I should’ve learned something from that but I didn’t. I guess that’s why I was stupid enough to sell my soul to that morbidly obese black man in Mississippi.” The artist laughs, bitter and short. “Holy fuck it was a cliché. I met the dude on a dusty crossroad beneath an old sweet gum tree. Isn’t that retarded? Anyway, that’s this painting in a nut shell. I gave that monstrosity of a man and his cordon of fat my everlasting soul in exchange for mastery over canvas and oil. Jesus! Now it’s all just so fucking vapid! So bland, so insipid, so fucking pointless! I could paint this shit in my sleep and I fucking hate it!”

The crying artist punctuates his sentence with violence. He produces a small knife, maybe a letter opener, from some inner pocket in his white suit and starts stabbing himself in the neck with a grimace of pain. Choking sobs make a lurid soundtrack as ruby life blood clashes with bright white. It’s over in seconds; the artist falls and the first man hums something melodic as tears muddle with blood. The second man slowly inhales the cloying and metallic scent of death as the artist twitches his way into silence.

“Well you damn fool, I don’t know fuck-all about game genies, but I know art when I see it.” He takes the painting off the wall and leaves the gallery with a skip in his step.

***

Anyway, I write and sell books and they never cost more than a dollar. If you’re a fan of fiction, you should check out Trailer Park Juggernauts here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00704HK6Q If you’re a fan of real life with just a sprinkling of fiction, you should check out Ephemeral Truths and Short Fiction here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AYRAXNI

Blood