All Those People that You Know…

“Come inside and pour a drink,” flows the man’s words from a stiff, smoking mouth. His essence is solidly mumbling grizzly. Frightened and frightening, lonely and proud, he speaks his low words into a damp chimney. Too strong to be lost, too weak to be found.

“I can’t right now. Maybe next time,” replies the estranger to the vanishing cloud. Aware of the presence of care in the calling, he hides nonetheless, afraid of the sound. Harboring sympathies, offering lies, he tries to save no soul today.

“Maybe next time,” they whisper and sigh, “Maybe next time.”

A few more steps down the line, then both die.

RIP Mitch

It was around the time we were discussing our respective tax troubles that Mitchell completely snapped. He just jumped up, walked straight outta the depot, and disappeared.

I heard a little later on that he had gone and scaled the east side of a laundromat using jutting bricks and air intake vents as footholds. Apparently, when Mitchell got to the top, he just lied on the roof for a few days. He told everybody who saw him that he was just collecting his thoughts. Really though, he was just collecting noxious fumes from all that roof tar.

It was seasonably hot here in Guatemala, so his common sense really dropped the ball on informing him to avoid doing something like that. But who knows, maybe common sense is the first organ to succumb to roof tar. Science has its fair share of blank spots, and there’s no sense in harping on ’em to try and make it blush.

Either way, we can all agree that ole Mitch was never too much for thinking. There’s no doubt about that, seeing as how he never did catch-on to the affair that I’ve been having with his wife, for what, like seventeen years now? We haven’t exactly been discreet about it either. Anybody remember Carlos Siega’s Christmas party two years ago? What a night. But perhaps this isn’t the time to get into all that. Water under the bridge, as they say.

So yeah. He sold key chains to tourists, his wife didn’t much care for him, and he owed a few years in back taxes that now he’ll never have to pay. That about sums up the life of ole Mitchell Rebbins, so whaddya say we file his eulogy under “DONE” and call it a day? I’ll be seeing most of you at the after party down at Wallbanger’s.

Dismissed!

 

Nothin’ Doin’

“See? It’s easy!” cries Reggie, touching his privates against the bark of a hundred year old sycamore.

“That may be part of the problem,” replies Edward, backing away. “It’s not just the hard stuff, Reg. Some of the easy stuff just isn’t worth doin’ either.”

He’s nearly to the fence when Reggie calls to him again.

“I value different things than you, Edward! Touch is the important sense to me — it’s like my seeing!”

Edward shakes his head. His hand rests on the gate, ready to swing. He hesitates like he can’t decide whether he should say something or if just thinking it is enough.

“Kids climb on those things,” he says without turning. “They climb all up and down them.”

Reggie bites his lip. Still pressed against the tree, he thinks to himself, “You bastard.”

Then Edward says the same and shuts the gate behind him.

Web(s)kin(z)

Patty’s children drew pen-mark arachnids amid the branching network of varicose veins that covered their mothers’ thick legs from hip to ankle.

The children were bored, and Patty was sleeping, so it seemed no harm to bring a few spiders into the world, if only to pass the time.

Sadly, when Patty awoke and resumed her more-or-less upright stance, gravity went to work. Loose folds of flesh drooped downward, blanketing the spiders in cocoons of fat.

That day in the living room, with pens still in hand, the children learned in countless ways that life is short. Much to their dismay, the spiders would not be seen again.

Midlife Identity Crisis

Ralph Schreiter had a face like a burnt-out lightbulb; spent from overuse. Having passed every day immersed in a long, agonizing search for the answer to one question, Ralph had led a life lived for no one.

“Would it be better to live for myself,” Ralph endlessly puzzled, “Or to devote myself entirely to other people?”

Little did he know that somewhere along the way, a severe case of schizophrenia had developed, and he was actually doing both simultaneously.

The Burdens of Fatherhood

I never really understood why it was of the utmost importance to all four of my children that I become fluent in native Japanese, but despite both my confusion and better judgment, I went along with the whole thing anyway. My wife told me that I should do it as a means of keeping my kids from losing faith in me, but I’m still grappling with why they had faith in me to begin with. In all honesty, I would trade any one of them for a decent riding mower, and I had assumed- wrongly apparently- that there was a silent understanding between all of us on that. Nonetheless, I learned the blasted language, and it was the most tedious, awful process that I have ever been involved in.

Finally, six years after their initial request of me, I felt that I had fully mastered the entire language and was ready to present them with the fruit of all of my arduous labor. I called the whole family together in the living room, and I’ll admit that as they were filing in, I began to feel pretty good about the ordeal. I finally understood why my wife was so adamant about me doing this for them. I mean, a person devoting so much time, so much effort just for the sake of a loved one’s half-baked request- if that’s not a display of unparalleled love, then I don’t know what love is.

Once all were present, I ascended the coffee table and proceeded to recite a lengthy piece of Japanese prose while dressed in full-on Harajuku garb, which I had borrowed from the local historic society. When I had finished, I smiled and stretched out my arms while still atop the coffee table, ready to receive the accolades and affection that such a selfless action should naturally render from small, weak-willed children. The kids just laughed though, and then they said I was a “butthole” and asked for twenty dollars to go see a movie.

I beat each one of them for no less than forty minutes apiece.

Reflecting on the incident, I’m convinced that was the day that they completely lost faith in me. However, reflecting on the incident further reminds me that it was also that day that I emptied their college funds on the most unsightly, feature-laden riding mower to ever grace the lawns of suburbia. My wife said that doing so showed her that I didn’t know what love is. It occurred to me that she might be right, but it also occurred to me that she was not the dimwitted fool who used up six years of his life learning a language that he doesn’t give a lick about. Upon mental confirmation of these truths, I just silently stared at her until she was either angry or creeped-out enough to leave the room.

To this day I occasionally feel bad about it all, but then at dinner one of them will bring up how they got me to waste six years just to laugh about it, and suddenly I don’t feel so bad about my actions. So yeah, my wife has lost respect for me, and yeah, my kids have no faith in me, but you know what? None of that bothers me one bit when I’m coasting on my riding mower and spouting obscenities at those mongrels in spot-on Japanese.

Wrinkles

If I were a Finnish man in a sauna, surrounded on all sides by my compatriots- my naked, fellow Finnish friends- I would talk with them about the feeling of being old and unimpressed with life. We would remark upon the sadness of no longer wrestling with choices, the crippling realization that, at last, we are forced to act our age. With so many friends now former, it would do our old flesh good to once more be reminded of sweet camaraderie. With such soft and solemn subjects, we would prevent anyone’s arousal, and our poor wives would never find out who was the true joy of our lives…

Never Bet on a Baby

A Hispanic, jumping spider is not a worthy opponent for a six month old baby. At least that’s what I told them, but alas, it was to no avail. I argued that although the spider possessed superior agility, the baby could easily crush him flat. In the end though, I was ignored and the fight went on as scheduled.

The event was highly publicized and as a result, the turnout was astounding. There was only a lukewarm expectancy for the baby’s victory, despite his size advantage. Thus it appeared that the Hispanic, jumping spider known as Phillipe would not only win the competition, but the people’s hearts as well.

The first round was a snap. The baby inadvertantly threw a mean right hook while rolling over and reaching for a passing speck of dust, but Phillipe easily dodged the attack. The spider countered with a barrage of body slams to the baby’s abdomen and by the third round, the baby had slumped over unconscious, bloated with spider venom.

The crowd cheered and Phillipe beamed with pride. The little spider from Guatemala had overcome impossible odds to walk away victorious, and the infant carcass now lay as proof. As Phillipe began spinning a web around his unconscious trophy, preparing to cart it home for display and dinner, I couldn’t help but shed a tear or two. Somehow the little spider had done it. Phillipe had turned the tide.

The Ballad of Ned Pinstripe

Ned Pinstripe was a man with values. He never took his take, nor faked his full. Ned Pinstripe was always on the level. When his little niece, Claire, came down with jaundice, ole Ned Pinstripe was the one to swim down to Atlantis and ask the god of the sea, King Neptune, for his world-renowned cure.

Ned Pinstripe was always there for family.

Later on, when Ned was off in the Serengeti, fighting witch doctors and shooting poachers in the brain, his little niece took sick again with the jaundice. And wouldn’t you know it, ole Ned Pinstripe high-tailed it right back down to King Neptune’s doorstep! He asked the sea king what the deal was with the bum medicinals that he had pawned off on ole Ned, and Neptune, well he got a bit ornery.

Ned Pinstripe was never one to back down from a good fistfight.

He and Neptune threw down for the better part of an hour, and at the end of it, we all had ourselves a brand new god of the sea. That’s right, you guessed it- ole Ned Pinstripe! Nowadays though, none of us are allowed in the whole ocean, except for Ned and his niece of course. We shoulda guessed something was going on with those two, what with the way Ned was always running off to her rescue and all. The thing is that Ned Pinstripe was such a charmer, nobody much suspected anything. Things are sure different with the ocean closed off to all living creatures though. Ole Ned even exiled all the aquatics! Said they weren’t open minded enough for the open ocean and that the squishier ones were surefire breeding grounds for jaundice. Now the land stinks like fish and death.

Ned Pinstripe was a jerk.

Forever Dumb

When I was a kid, my dad used to tell me that there was nothing worse than being average. Being left in the dust, he said, a complete failure in every sense of the word was better than being middle of the road. The way he had it figured, those who were always having it stuck to ’em, the ones who were really hurting, getting nowhere fast- they were the ones who really knew what it meant to be alive. He told me that the guys in last place were always working extra hard, not to get ahead so much as to just survive. There was a knowledge you got from last place, he told me, a cathartic kind of longview that made you thankful for your place in life, no matter how humble it may be. No one was greedy in last place, and nobody was numb either like those in the middle who were always pushing so desperately, trying to get themselves a little further ahead of the rest. People in that lowliest position saw things the way they really are, and those folks were just grateful to have some part in the whole grand affair. They understood that so much of life is just the living- the surviving moment-to-moment, day-to-day.

It didn’t occur to me until much later that my dad was just trying to console himself, that his whole philosophy was more mad-grab than hard fact. It didn’t occur to me until much later that, passionate and aware or not, my dad was a loser like any other. Forever searching for silver linings, forever making excuses, forever fixed in last place.