A Tale of Two Teachers

Matt punched the paper towel dispenser in a berserker rage. It split two of his knuckles and I remember staring at his hand with an “oh shit” expression on my face. I could see the tendons, like white ribbons of plastic, and then the blood came a few moments later. It was odd; like the trauma of the punch retarded the blood’s response. The dented paper towel dispenser was just as clean and pearly white as we had found it. Its surface, now concave, reflected the light from the fluorescents above in odd patterns. I ran over to grab a handful of paper towels so we could apply pressure, just like they had taught us in health class, which was ironic because that was the class we were skipping.

 

As we were leaving, the principal intercepted us. He was a man’s man; they archetypical jock with cauliflower ears earned during a collegiate wrestling career. He was pissed. You see, someone had figured out that it was really easy to open the soap dispensers in all the boy’s bathrooms. They’d then cut a little hole in the soap bag and spray the green gel all over the bathroom walls; sometimes randomly, sometimes in graffiti talking all sorts of shit about the principal. I don’t remember why Matt punched the paper towel dispenser, probably something to do with Renee, but I do remember it being loud enough for the principal to hear as he stalked the halls looking for the ever elusive soap graffiti artist. He’ll never know how close he came to catching him that day.

 

He looked down at us and demanded to know if we were the ones that were destroying “his” bathrooms. We said no, of course, and then he asked Matt about his hand. Matt made up some flaccid excuse involving a skateboarding incident which only held up because Principal Cauliflower Ear couldn’t prove that we dented the paper towel dispenser. It was my contention that blood would be all over it if we had. He turned to us with a frown and dismissed Matt back to class. After all, Matt was a wrestler, and a damn good one, and jocks stick together. But I had long hair. I played the drums and hung out with a questionable crowd. There’d be no quick dismissal for me. Principal Cauliflower Ear looked down at me, literally with his fists on his hips, and told me in no uncertain terms that I’d be going nowhere in life, and furthermore, he’d eventually catch me in the act and “suspend my ass.” I walked back to health class with a smartass smirk on my face, but inside, I was a quaking child.

 

Principal Cauliflower Ear lost his job two weeks later. As it turns out, he was embezzling money from useless extracurricular activities like drama and the chess club and funneling it into wrestling and football. I guess the bean-counters weren’t jocks because they didn’t stick with Principal Cauliflower Ear. He left and retired as a dejected has-been. I haven’t seen him since, and my “how do you like me now?” moment is frozen somewhere in my past.

 

My civics teacher was a plump and flirtatious ass. He was the star of all the assemblies. He’d pump up the auditorium with his easy smile or do the splits after the other teachers “begged” him to do it. He’d walk the halls tickling and smiling and laughing as if he were just as cool as the cool kids. “Nah, don’t mind me, I’m not one of those grownups you can’t trust, I’m one of you guys.” He never really liked me, but he sure as hell liked the girls that I hung out with. He’d tolerate my presence in the back row as long as I didn’t do something retarded; if I did, and heads turned away from his spectacle to see what I was up to, he’d glare at me over my classmates with a look that promised make-up work. That man always looked down on me despite the easy “A” I carried through his bullshit class and I despised him for it.

 

A few years later I ran into him at one of those trashy casual dining places. The waitresses were tired and all the food was fried, but I was a college drop-out barely clinging to sobriety, so it was a comfortable haunt. He walked over to me, still smug and plump, and asked how I was faring in Oregon. Someone had told the ass that I dropped out, and when I confirmed it, he pounced. He threw back his head and laughed as if he were on stage and said he knew I’d fail because college was like a “smorgasbord of sin” and I was “too weak to resist.” Shit. It was true. It was raining that day and the weather must’ve left me witless. I paid my bill, tipped twenty percent, and left with my loser friends.

 

The next time I saw that ass, it was on TV. He was handcuffed and wearing an orange jumpsuit. As it turns out, Mr. Smorgasbord was the leader of a youth group at his church, and he accidentally diddled an acolyte. She was sixteenish with a nubile body and doe eyes. He was a man of power and influence looking down on a circle of doting underage girls; he had his own smorgasbord of sin and he sampled.

 

I shouted my “how do you like me now?” at the TV, but that moment, just like the former, lacked fulfillment. However, I guess it’s all unnecessary because somewhere, deep down, the two teachers heard me. Or maybe they heard me before I said it, before they were caught doing what they did. And maybe the reason they never liked me to begin with is because they saw my triumph, their failure, every time they looked at me. Because even at my worst, I never pretended to be something I wasn’t. I was a long haired bathroom vandalizing smartass in the back of the class, but luckily, that’s not something for which they make you wear orange jumpsuits.

 

***

 

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

Soap Dispensers

Steampunk

I once received a rejection letter from a small press publisher because my work wasn’t “sufficiently Steampunk.” The editor told me that they’d gladly publish my work if I’d just add a bit more of what they were looking for, and I declined saying that it wasn’t my style. It was all a lie though; I had no idea what “Steampunk” was. My inner nerd went into spasms thinking there could be some new and awesome genre out there to which I wasn’t privy, so I turned to the internet as we all do when looking for answers.

 

My image search spawned sepia pictures of oddly dressed men wearing brass rimmed goggles and layers of soot. There were lumbering airships tethered to the sky by patchwork balloons and smoking cities straight out of a mechanical fantasy. There were fan sites and societies and authors specializing in Steampunk that had been writing for decades and it all hit me like a bitch slap. Where had I been? I read, I watch TV, I use the internet; I’ve glued myself to pop culture and yet I couldn’t define “Steampunk” without Wikipedia’s help.

 

I dove in thinking that I needed to catch up, and at first, I was a bit disappointed. Most of the fiction I read seemed to be too centered on the premise; the story took a backseat to the genre. Authors would spend copious amounts of time describing the setting as if I’d become enthralled by the theme alone. The stories were all the same. They’d encompass a misbegotten land, usually a chain of islands, choked by pollution and the tyrannical rule of this or that emperor or king. There were always airships and brass pipes and steam powered contraptions with a complete disregard for practicality. And the characters all shared an odd commonness; they felt like cartoons. I’d start reading, doing my best to picture human characters, but eventually, their exaggerated mannerisms would destroy my mental constructs and replace them with painted two-dimensional beings.

 

I ended up thinking that Steampunk was the literary equivalent to anime. But as it turns out, that’s just because I hadn’t been reading the right stuff; I hadn’t found A.L. Davroe. In reading “The Krie Seekers”, I found that Steampunk can be just as captivating as any other genre as long as it’s centered on a strong story line with plausible character development. I’ve since disavowed my previous notion that Steampunk was nothing more than an odd esoteric fad that’d fade into the past like the age of antiquity that gave it birth, and I plan on reading more. As a side note, I’m definitely a fan of anime, it’s just that when I read a novel, I’m looking for something else.

 

I’ve decided to write a three part series on emerging styles as they apply to indie authors, and this is the first.

 

Part One: Steampunk, and A.L. Davroe

A.L. Davroe

It’s been said that the hardest part of writing a short story or a novella is keeping it short. Sure, it’s easy to spew out a few thousand words and dub it as a short story, but the artistry lies in the ability to do it well; to fit genuine characters and germane plot into those few thousand words. A.L. Davroe does it masterfully. She has managed to fit a book’s worth of plot into a novella, and most impressively of all, she even squeezed in a believable romance. At face value, I suppose that doesn’t seem like an impressive feat, but it is. The best romantic relationships are the ones that start off as anything but. I won’t go into how that relates specifically to Davroe’s story because doing so would be too much of a spoiler, but the way this particular relationship is handled by Davroe is worth mention.

 

The story, the plot it’s self, is paramount in Davroe’s writing; the Steampunk theme is secondary. There are still plenty of airships and brass pipes and black clouds of noxious pollution, but all those aspects are where they belong: in the setting. Her characters act like humans, even though a few of them aren’t, and it was easy for me to picture them as such. And Davroe’s style is fast paced and vivid. I read “The Krie Seekers” in one sitting as the day passed quietly around me; I kept clicking the page forward button on my Kindle in total satisfaction.

 

I’m admittedly ignorant when it comes to Steampunk so I can’t say for sure whether or not Davroe brings something new to the genre, but I think she might. The city in which this story takes place, Dormorn, is cast almost like a character all of its own. She writes that the city has a heartbeat, which is punctuated throughout the story, and that type of personification came across as something truly fresh and novel. When I asked Davroe about this, she said “The CITY STEAM vignettes are meant to be little peeks into a world where the dominant world power has rejected the reigning god (Ehleis) and chooses instead to believe in their own power of creation. In this way, man himself is a god and the mechanisms that he creates are his children.” How awesome is that? In reading the story I felt it; almost as if Dormorn were sentient with long reaching pipes as a root system and billowing clouds of smoke as breath.

 

Anyway, I can’t recommend this book strongly enough. I’d usually include a synopsis of the book at this point, as I have in past segments, but I don’t want to give away too much. In short, the “Krie” and the “Seekers” are both supernatural beings that share a murderous, albeit symbiotic, relationship. The story of their fated struggle is juxtaposed against one of love and hate, of action and drama, and I loved this book. If you’re a fan of fiction, you should read it. Here’s the short synopsis off of Amazon: As the citizens in the Windward Empire’s capital city of Dormorn sleep, two lawmen recruit a pair of Seeker sisters to assist in a hunt for the blood-thirsty Krie that have been terrorizing the city.

 

Please take the time to follow these links:

Her blog/website: http://www.aldavroe.com/

Her Facebook fan page: https://www.facebook.com/ALDavroeFanPage

Her Twitter account: https://twitter.com/aldavroe

Her Goodreads account: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5212441.A_L_Davroe

And most importantly, the Amazon page for THE KRIE SEEKERS: http://www.amazon.com/Krie-Seekers-City-Steam-ebook/dp/B00BUQK7OM/

KrieSeekers

Monsters in Vegas

I felt pretty good about the fact that I was in better shape than anybody else in the gym right up until the sixty year old transvestite walked in and put us all to shame. The dude was ripped. He had twice the muscle definition as I did and his boobs were bigger than my wife’s; I have a solid six-pack and my wife is a girl so it was pretty impressive on both fronts. And I knew he was a he as opposed to a masculine she thanks to the skintight grey leotard he was wearing. I suppose he could’ve been smuggling a water bottle or something but I doubt it. He walked in with his argyle socks and ballerina shoes and looked around the gym trying to figure out where to start. He had permanent make up and a grey topknot and no fear whatsoever. He stretched and then started throwing a fifty pound dumbbell around as if it were a paperweight. I shrugged my shoulders and thought “Well, this is Vegas. What did you expect?” I went back to my pull-ups and didn’t think about it anymore. There’s nothing wrong with being the second buffest guy in the gym even if number one is twice as old and wearing a sports bra.

 

I finished my workout and headed back up to the room to meet my wife and children to plan the day. As a side note, if you would’ve walked up to me five years ago and told me that I’d go to bed early in Las Vegas so I could fit in a six a.m. workout, I would’ve accused you of being retarded. Things change. My wife and monsters were awake so I told Terra about the tranny just to make early morning small talk but then I heard my oldest daughter laughing at the story, and that’s when it hit me; I voluntarily brought both of my daughters to Vegas. All of the women in my family were on spring break; one from Montessori, one from middle school, and one from college, so we’d decided to load up the car and drive the eight hours to sin city just for the hell of it. But now what? Questions would arise, and thanks to my anti sheltering policy, I’d have to answer them. I just wish it didn’t have to start with a conversation about what I meant by “smuggling a water bottle.”

The Strip

We headed out, and about ten minutes into our trek, one of those shady but silent men on the street tried to hand me a small brochure advertising the best “escorts” in Nevada. Seriously? I’m not sure exactly what we were looking for that morning but it definitely wasn’t prostitution. Maybe the dude missed his orientation at whore-business-card-handing-out-school but I’m pretty sure a thirty-something year old man walking with his wife and two daughters isn’t in the target demographic. I kept walking and for once, my oldest and most ridiculously observant daughter didn’t see anything so I got to avoid our first conversation about “really bad choices.” But it came about a mile later.

 

The bums came out around ten a.m. and started plying their trade. Some were busking with harmonicas or guitars, others proclaimed to be veterans with camouflage coats as evidence, and some relied on creative signs: “Too ugly to prostitute; too stupid to steal.” I almost gave the last guy five bucks just for his proper usage of homonyms and semicolons but we just walked on by. My oldest, Catelynn, wanted to give a rather jovial bum with a guitar and a bandana something so I gave her a couple bucks. Why not? She ran over and put the money in his hat with a smile and he said “Thank you pretty lady! Stay in school or you’ll end up like me!” then he looked over at me and said “You’re welcome!” I thanked him and we continued on. I started chuckling because somehow, I had just thanked a bum for letting me give him money. The next day, we walked by the same guy a little after ten thirty a.m. and he had already drained most of the forty ounce beer in his hand. It was cheap and wrapped in a brown paper bag because I guess he’d felt the need to reinforce a stereotype. I turned to Catelynn and said “See? You bought that man a beer.” I could see the wheels turning behind her frown.

 

It wasn’t fifty feet later that we passed by a bum in a leather vest that had track marks and needle sores all over both of his arms. It looked as if he moonlighted as a cactus wrangler. My daughter stared at him and his bedraggled sign that simply said “please help” as we walked by and then asked why I didn’t give him anything. “Would he just buy beer too?” I asked her if she noticed the sores, and I knew she had because her observation skills are almost creepy. She said yes, and guessed that maybe he’d walked through a swarm of mosquitoes (she frickin’ hates mosquitoes). I told her exactly where they came from, and that every dollar that went into his coffee-can would end up in his veins. She didn’t ask to hand out any more money for the rest of the trip.

 

I was still thinking about heroin so I didn’t notice the bikini-clad flamingo girl that was running toward us. She bent over to look into my stroller and in a dulcet voice, she asked my youngest, Kinley, for a high five. She was spangled in sequins and almost falling out of her top so I’m sure it’s a mammary Kinley isn’t going to forget. Kinley gave her a tentative high five and the flamingo girl bounced along her way giggling “welcome to Las Vegas” over her shoulder. Great; now what? Should I sit my children down on the curb and explain the pitfalls behind daddy issues? Should I take Kinley to the clinic and get her disinfected just in case?

 

The entire trip was like that; good, but awkward. We took the kids swimming every day after our forages and if I didn’t watch out, I’d find myself swimming with both of my monsters in a manmade lake of twitterpated douche bags. We’d be wading and splashing and minding our own business, and then be inundated with a wave of pheromones smelling slightly of coconuts and Bud Light. There’d be a group of men to one side doing a line dance in the pool (I shit you not) and a group of women to the other giggling way too loud and doing their best to still pull off bellybutton rings. The DJ would shout “to the left to the left to the left” as the bass pumped and I’d do my best to get my daughters to the tiled shore before they’d be swept under by the riptide flowing out from the mating rituals.

 

Our children started suffering from sensory overload pretty early in the trip. We’d take them to see sharks and jumping dolphins and albino tigers; we went to carnivals, we ate and shopped constantly, we rode roller coasters and watched light shows. But as soon as we’d get back to the room, the kids would start pacing and staring at the confining walls like inmates on death row. “Dad I’m bored. I don’t think I can sit here anymore.” Jesus. But I guess that’s what Vegas is designed to do: continuously funnel the guests through a turnstile of constant consumption. And that’s what we did. Terra and I aren’t big gamblers, we only blew two hundred bucks (half of which wasn’t ours), but the three day trip still put me back about two grand. So be it. The lesson Catelynn learned via someone else’s track marks was worth every penny.

***

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

Monster

 

The Parasite

I remember looking down at the gelatinous little parasite and hating it instantly. It was putrid grey and about the size of a quarter; it had the consistency of cold snot. It was long dead, the saw that had quartered the cow I was butchering had taken care of that, but I was still repulsed by the thing’s existence. The little bastard was curled up cozy as can be in a slab of steak I was trimming and as soon as I realized what it was, I hacked it out with one of those white-handled butcher knives and threw it in the trash with the rest of the offal. But could it still infect me some how? Was it now, at this very moment, soughing off eggs or disease that couldn’t be contained by the trash can? Had I accidently touched it? Should I run to the bathroom and scrub my hands until they turned pink? Should I set fire to everything in sight to save the rest of humanity and scream like a girl while running for my life? There’s just something insidious about a parasite that irks me on a visceral level. I hate the little bastards.

 

I’m really only afraid of three things; parasites, sharks, and AIDS. The latter two are pretty easy to avoid so if I had to choose one of the three that bothers me the most, it’d be parasites for sure. As a side note, can you imagine how scary it’d be if there was such a thing as a shark with AIDS? Holy crap! I’d never swim in the ocean again. Actually, last Halloween, I wanted to dress up like one. I was going to get a shark costume and pin one of those AIDS awareness ribbons on my dorsal fin. Boom. I’d be the scariest thing ever. Anyway, back on track. I think my fear of parasites dates back to elementary school. Our teacher passed around a large capped beaker containing a huge tape worm and some cloudy formaldehyde. I froze up when it made it to my desk. The thing was long and flat and troglodyte-white with hooks for feet and an evil maw that it used to hang on inside your gut. The teacher told me that it couldn’t hurt me because it was dead and pickled, but I sure as hell didn’t trust him. How could anybody that kept monsters in jars be trusted?

 

Parasites personify every trait that we’re taught to hate; “parasitic” is an adjective always associated with villainy. They shun symbiotic relationships, they take but never give, they enter through deception, and they only leave through death. And if anything, my fear of them has been growing over the years just like a… well, like a parasite. So when I came across that evil little monster while cutting up a cow, I nearly stripped out of my white apron and left. But I couldn’t; I was doing it all for the edification of my young.

 

The wife and I had decided that we needed to show our oldest daughter where our food came from, so when we got a somewhat serendipitous invitation to help butcher a cow, we agreed. Our daughter knew that her burgers came from cows, her bacon from pigs, but it was a superficial type of knowledge. I imagine such knowledge could even be deemed inadmissible as hearsay. So we drove over to a friend’s house to help butcher a cow. Actually, all the unsavory tasks had already been accomplished. Someone else had shot the cow, skinned it and drained the blood; it had already been quartered and aged in a meet locker. My child would be getting the Cliff’s Notes version of death and butchery.

 

As soon as the work started, I could tell that our daughter wasn’t going to learn much. To her, she was just handling a bunch of steak that came from something roughly shaped like the back of a cow. In fact, she loved every bit of it. She got to use knifes like a grown up, and steak is probably her favorite thing to eat. She inherited the appetite for red meat from her mother, and standing next to the two of them as we cut steak after steak, I fully expected them to give in to the blood lust at any moment and start devouring the meat like a couple Velociraptors. It never happened.

 

The day was pretty uneventful until I came across the parasite, and even that didn’t really bother my daughter. “Uh yeah dad, just cut it out and cook the steak. Totes no problem.” Totes no problem my ass! Whatever. We took our share and left after a ranch style lunch of simple dishes that dated back to a more simple time. Cooked steak with salt. Red beats on a white plate. Cut lettuce with dressing and cheese. But as I was eating and as I was driving home, I couldn’t shake the chilling feeling that came from the dead parasite. In a way, it had infected me; part of it was living in my mind and I couldn’t dig it out. Its purpose had been fulfilled.

 

All of this was inspired by a friend’s blog. Her name is Savannah Grace and I’ve written about her work before because frankly, it kicks ass. She’s a globe trekking author with more talent than most, and she recently came across a cow that was tied up in the back of a taxi cab somewhere in Africa. How awesome is that? In a way, I’ve always been secretly jealous of Savannah’s life because she’s constantly surrounded by fodder for writing. And she uses it well; her style is relaxed and easy to read, almost like a conversation, and every bit of her life’s experience is interesting. The picture below is one of her next to the cow, but for the full experience, you’ll need to go read her blog here: http://www.watkinstravel.blogspot.com/2013/03/steak-for-breakfast.html. There’s also a video on her page, but I should warn you now, it’s a bit graphic. But the story is poignant, and if you’re a fan of travel blogs, Savannah’s is one of the best out there. So please check it out.

 

And please support Savannah buy downloading her book “Sihpromatum” here: http://www.amazon.com/Sihpromatum-Grew-Boobs-China-ebook/dp/B008YZ0184/

Cow in a Taxi

Back of the Bus

I love the white noise that bleeds from the beastly jet engines near the back of the plane. I always request a seat as close as possible to the back of the bus when I fly and they’re usually available. You can sit unperturbed and read or daydream without having to listen to that most atrocious of things: small talk. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m just as gregarious as the next guy, just so long as the next guy is a troglodyte. I loathe all of that trite “so where are you from, my name is blah blah, I hope there aren’t any babies on this flight” bullshit and I’ve found that the droning roar near the back of the plane suffocates such niceties like a pillow to the face. There are other pros: you’re usually the first to board, you’re closer to the bathrooms, and the people watching couldn’t be better.

 

However, there is one con… one horrible, horrible con. After all, the first to board is the last to deplane. After hours and hours of immobility, you get to stand and watch the milling hoards in front of you slowly awaken and poke about for their belongings like the travel drunk zombies they are. The bottleneck that is the center aisle reduces the average traveler’s mind activity to that of a cow and it takes for fucking ever. It’s like that odd little accordion affect you experience at stop lights. Most of us stare at the car in front of us instead of at the light. When red morphs into green, the first car moves, cueing the second and so on. If we all watched the light and started to move as one, congestion would evaporate but thanks to our latent herd mentality, it’ll never happen. Anyway, the same thing happens on an airplane, but it’s ten times worse due to exhaustion and over priced cocktails.

 

I usually try to take the sluggish progress in stride, and I usually fail, but there’s really nothing to be done about it. Or at least I thought not, but I learned differently after one particular four hour flight back to New Mexico from California. I was traveling with my wife and our two children, and at the time, my youngest monster had just turned two. She had slept through most of the flight but when we landed, she awoke, and as soon as her little blue eyes popped open, I could tell that she had been possessed by a seriously righteous demon while she slept. The whining and the whimpering cries of impatience started almost immediately, and as the stewardess took her sweet-ass time opening the door, I started getting the “shush your infernal child” looks.

 

But nobody deigned to move any faster. Just like the stewardess with her updo and permanent makeup who took forever to open the door, all the people in front of us took their time as they stretched or looked for their bags. Meanwhile, in the back of the plane, the tension mounted and mounted in the mind of one seriously pissed off two year old girl. She wanted off this plane. She wanted to go home. She wanted food and TV and blankets and she wanted them now. She had no tolerance for slowpokes; she had no understanding of human nature and the tide of selfishness in front of her. She started to cry in earnest.

 

“Why daddy? Why can’t we get off this plane right now?!” The looks shooting my way started to become less guarded. These people wanted absolute quiet while they ignored the fact that their doomed quest to find a missing set of headphones was retarding the lives of everybody behind them. My first instinct was to shush my child, to tell her that she needed to be quiet and wait patiently for the cattle ahead of her to deplane first, but then it hit me. Doing so would be asinine. I’d be no better than the people I complain about, the people that I write about. I lifted her up so we’d be eye to eye and I said “we can’t get off this plane until everyone else is off, and they’re moving too slow.”

 

I watched in awe as comprehension bloomed in her little bloodshot eyes. She started to get angry, I could see it in her boiling tears, and she started to scream “MOVE OUT OF MY WAYYYYYYYY!!” over and over. I lifted her above my head and turned her so she was facing everyone in front of us. I’d like to think I looked like John Cusack in the end of “Say Anything” when he holds that boom box over his head to profess his love for what’s-her-name but I probably didn’t. I just stood there and let her scream; it was cathartic. I imagined tendrils of my own frustration flowing from my fingertips into her little possessed body. I imagined my own pissed off will mingling with hers and filling the cabin of that 747 with a sonorous declaration of our intolerance.

 

Everyone looked back at once in a shocked moment of indignation, and once they realized I was doing nothing to stop a terrible twos tirade, they started moving as if they meant it. They found speed and purpose and snapped out of their head-up-ass reverie. They dug deep for a bit of altruism and got out of my monster’s way. On the way out, a rather rotund gentleman wasn’t moving fast enough for my daughter and she actually punched him with a little balled up fist. He looked at me as if seeking an apology, and I pursed my lips as if to say “ehh, what ‘cha gunna do?” That plane emptied as quickly as I’ve always wanted and after it was all over, as I was carrying my exhausted child to baggage claim, I kissed her on the cheek and whispered into her ear “good job honey, daddy loves you.”

 

***

 

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

Move Bitches

Martian Lit

It’s always the assistant editors and first readers that like my stuff. The young people. The cool kids. I’ve always imagined them as trendy little hipsters sitting around the slush pile with bloodshot eyes and paper cut fingers. They’d find my submission and connect with the vernacular while forgiving my mechanical missteps. They’d read it and like it because we had something in common and then put my story on the “maybe” pile.

 

But eventually, they’d have to awake the senior editor. They’d walk into his tomb armed with torches and open his creaking coffin to find him dressed in his sweater vest. He’d sit up slowly, pinch his monocle between his brow and his hooked nose, and then peer down onto my manuscript. “What is this?” he shrieks, “This heathen befouls our beloved publication by submitting stories about hillbillies with superpowers? Bah!” Then, of course, my story would disintegrate into ash as the senior editor sucked out all its promise. The ashes would fall to the floor with all the others as the senior editor reclined once more into his coffin to drift back into a slumber chalked full of dreams about killing puppies or some such. Absolute bullshit.

 

Martian Lit, on the other hand, is piloted entirely by the cool kids. They recently accepted one of my submissions and published it here: http://martianlit.com/magazine/1407/ken-doll-jesse-anderson/. They even commissioned artwork for it, which I love, and helped me to polish off a few mechanical discrepancies so I could make the best possible first impression with their readers. The antithesis of bullshit.

 

Remember that song “Plush” by STP? The Rolling Stone Magazine dubbed that song “best song of the 90’s”. You could make a strong argument for “Alive” by Pearl Jam but whatever. “Plush” still kicked ass. I’d sit in my room for hours in front of an old TV, with its glowing convex glass, watching MTV when they were still deserving of the acronym. The red and washed out video for Plush would come on and I’d drool in rapt attention. I didn’t understand the lyrics (seriously, what happens “when the dogs begin to smell her?), but I loved the opening chords. In fact, it was the first song I learned to play on a shiny black guitar I got for Christmas. Well as it turns out, the guy who wrote those opening chords for STP is now one of the writers for Martian Lit. How awesome is that? My story, Ken’s Doll, comes right after something written by a man that influenced my life years ago. All the other authors published by Martian Lit seem to have PhD’s or publishing deals and I’m honored to be in their company.

 

The artwork they chose to go with my story comes from Christopher Coffey; you can find more of the work he has done for Martian Lit here:  http://martianlit.com/author/christopher-coffey/. I absolutely love what he came up with, and once I get better at stalking people through Twitter, I plan on tracking him down so I can con a book cover out of him.

 

Anyway, I just wanted to write this to thank the good people over at Martian lit (Jeff in particular) for giving me a chance. I’ve made it onto the “short list” at least twelve times for half as many publications, but until recently, I had only made it into print once. Thank you Martian Lit.

 

Please go support them: http://martianlit.com/

manhands

The Goldfish

My high school biology teacher was as off kilter as they come, but we all loved him. He once read a study that supposedly proved students could score higher on tests if they listened to classical music during the examination, and he took it to heart. I’m pretty sure that by “classical” they meant something like Mozart or Beethoven, but our teacher came to a different conclusion. He’d play that Alice in Wonderland inspired song by the Moody Blues on an old cassette player and manically run around the room staring at each of his students so he could “see it working.” The distorted hippie music was more of a distraction than anything, and when he’d come over to my desk, reeking of coffee and something he swore he didn’t grow in his greenhouse, I’d completely lose my train of thought.

 

He was the type that would trip out on some sort of new discovery he’d found in this or that scientific magazine and then rant about it for hours while the rest of us willed the clock into fast forward. He was also the type that could milk out every ounce of our rapt attention by creating a bomb with a coffee can, a bag of flour, a bendable straw, and a candle. His class was a rollercoaster of highs and lows, awesome explosions and soporific lectures, but I can honestly say I that looked forward to it.

 

It was during one of his lulls that I drifted off and started staring at the digital clock on the wall with its malicious red numerals. Time seemed to bend and stretch around my impatience and I was doing my best to will it into the past when my beloved biology teacher looked over at me and accused me of being a goldfish. I didn’t know what he meant, so I asked, and he said that gold fish have a two second memory span and that I should do my best to extend my attention span. The rest of our time in class that day devolved into hypothetical badinage on what it would be like to be a goldfish, and the thought has stuck with me through the years.

 

I have no idea how they figured out that a goldfish only has a two second memory span, because it’s not like you can ask them, but what would that be like? How horrible would it be to be unable to recall anything that happened before two seconds ago? Or would it even be horrible? If you were a goldfish, and you lived in a tank with a bubbling treasure chest and a menacing skull, you could go back and forth and live in a constant state of surprise. You could swim up to the treasure and say “oh shit! I’m rich!” swim the other way, see the skull, and say “oh my god! That skull is crazy scary I’m out of here!” But then you’d see the treasure chest again, which would now be a complete novelty because you last saw it more than two seconds ago. That’d be your entire life: “Dude look at all that gold! AHHHH! A skull! Someone died here! Wow! A treasure chest! I’m the luckiest fish ever! Crap! A skull! I bet there’s a pirate in these waters!”

 

And what if you lived in a tank full of other goldfish? All day long, every day, you’d be making new friends because every time you’d meet a new fish, they’d be forgotten two seconds later, and they’d forget about you at the same time. You’d never be lonely, you’d never truly make friends, you’d never get irritated or fall in love; you wouldn’t have the memory span necessary to realize that it sucked, that it kicked ass.

 

My mom bought me an African tree climbing turtle when I was a child but we didn’t know it was special when we brought it home from the pet shop. The sticker on the tank in the store simply said “turtle.” We put him in a little aquarium by my bed, but when I woke up after that first night’s sleep with Sammy the turtle and looked over to find my new friend, he was gone. I searched all over that house through my tears and finally found him in the living room stuck to the wall about ten feet up. He must’ve heard me come in because he turned his little turtle head towards me with a “what, this is totally normal” expression on his face. Shut up; this is my story. Anyway, my stepfather got a ladder and popped him off the wall before handing Sammy down to me. We called the pet shop, learned the truth about Sammy’s heritage, and then put a Plexiglas lid on his aquarium. He tried to escape a few times after that, but mostly, Sammy the turtle spent his days eating goldfish. I’d put a fish in the water with him, he’d hold super still like the tree climbing ninja that he was, wait for the fool fish to get too close, and then high-ya! He’d latch on to the poor fish with his jaws so quickly that it made me distrust his usual slow turtleish way of doing things.

 

But he’d just hang on to the wriggling goldfish until it was dead and then take his time eating it. Looking back, I now realize that death was slow in coming; it took way longer than two seconds for the fish to stop twitching. How horrible would that be? Near the end, that goldfish with his two second memory would remember nothing but pain and fear and confusion. All the things that came before, birth, food and defecation, the trip to my house in a plastic bag with his friends, all of that simply didn’t exist. My crazy-ass biology teacher taught me something, despite the Moody Blues, and I do my best to cling to it when I feel my attention span shortening. Being myopic, letting the fleeting moments that constantly swim around us slip in and out of our awareness unmarked, is a mistake. I take note and remember, because I’m not a goldfish.

 

***

 

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

New Friends, Old Strangers