Thursday, March 30, 2006

22: Interlude 11

Behind the wheel. The road is a hiss and hum somewhere under you, moving fast enough to scrape you clean. Your hands move the machine to and fro, here and there. If you wanted to, you could roll the fucker. Sometimes you can't tell if you want to or not. But you don't do it, because it simply isn't done. Too much of that and the entire system would fracture, and who knows what would fall through the cracks.

The windshield wipers swipe and splat, pushing life this way and that, left, then down. You peer through the glass, the wet streets made luminescent by the streetlights that delimit your progress. Some asshole passes you illegally and attracts the attention of a cop. You smile. There is an intricate web of social conventions and customs and myth about all of it.

And the roads themselves? Just another web, spun first in the minds of the purposeful and then rendered so cunningly from the very bowels of the earth itself. It is upon the bones of the ancients that we cover ground.

Journeys large and small. Movement. The chore of navigation and the watchful solitude of the pilot. Hands and feet. Eyes on the road. Understand that you are weaving a blanket made of cultural destiny. It smells like suffocation, breathes like tomorrow, stings like splendour, covers the earth and sky. Snuggle it.

Monday, March 27, 2006

21: Storyline 2.3

"I didn't throw beer at your house," Robert explained to the furious Mr. Portman. "It was my refrigerator."

Mr. Portman continued as though Robert hadn't spoken. "You about scared my wife half to..." His voice trailed off as he squinted at Robert. "Jesus, what the hell happened to your face?"

It was true that with his blood-soaked rag, black and blue swollen nose, and dried blood from a dozen or so cuts on the side of his face, Robert was quite a sight. Mr. Portman's blunt appraisal did nothing to improve Robert's spirits. He was about to make an angry retort when Rebecca cut him off.

"Mr. Portman," she said, "We've had a rather unfortunate afternoon. May we come in and use your phone? We need to call the police."

Mr. Portman snorted. "Come in? And bleed all over everything? No way." He was not an entirely unfeeling man, however. "Hang on, I'll get the cordless." He slid the door closed, locked it, and disappeared into the house.

Robert turned to Rebecca and gave her a look.

"Okay, okay," she said after a moment or two. "Portman may not have been a good first choice. But I didn't hear you give any ideas."

Robert acknowledged her point with a nod. "This isn't safe to be out here like this, though," he said. "The refrigerator may have heard Portman yelling and come for us."

It was as though speaking had made it so. As Robert finished talking, he saw past Rebecca to the corner of the house, where the refrigerator had just emerged. "Oh shit," he said. Rebecca turned to look just as the freezer door snapped open. There was a shrill roar. Robert saw it happening in slow motion as the blast of evil cold hit Rebecca square in the chest.

"No!" he screamed. Those of you who have had occasion to scream, "No!" about something will know all too well the desolation and helplessness that Robert now felt. The rest of you will just have to imagine.

Rebecca had become a woman frozen in a pillar of ice. Her panic-stricken features, cast a sickly, pale blue color, could just be made out through the thick, translucent frost. The refrigerator cackled evilly. "You're next," it shouted at Robert.

Just at that moment, Mr. Portman opened the door. "Here's the cordless," he said, thrusting a phone at Robert. Then he froze (metaphorically) when he saw the literally frozen Rebecca. "Jesus, what the hell happened to her?"

Robert leaped into action. Setting his shoulder against the pillar of ice, he knocked it over towards Mr. Portman. Reflexively, Mr. Portman leaped out of the way as the pillar landed with a crashing thud on his kitchen floor. Its great weight and momentum carried it sliding further into the room. Robert followed. Seizing Mr. Portman by the shirt collar, he dragged the struggling suburbanite to the dining room, which was out of the line of fire from the sliding glass door.

"I want you to listen to me very carefully," said Robert, putting his face very close to Mr. Portman's in a somewhat threatening manner. Mr. Portman stopped struggling and nodded. "I want you to get yourself and everyone else in this house upstairs. With any luck, you'll be safe there. Call the police and tell them there's a refrigerator terrorizing the neighborhood."

"A refrigerator?"

"Okay, fine, don't say that. Tell them something, anything, to get them out here. Lives are in danger. And do what you can to keep that," he gestured towards the frozen pillar that encased Rebecca, "safe."

Letting Mr. Portman go, Robert stood up and made for the front door.

"But where are you going?" called out Mr. Portman.

"I don't know," Robert called back over his shoulder. "Somewhere else."

Thursday, March 23, 2006

20: Interlude 10

I want. I want. I want. No-one knows. Call it a clerical error and move on.

When I was young, I made a song. Then I heard it somewhere else. When I was older, I made another song, but I heard that one somewhere else too. I made other songs, though, that I didn't hear elsewhere. I was diligent and purposeful. It all worked out in a way that I could live with. But oh! That slowly unfolding insect! That trembling tapestry of locomotion!

Incarnate. Bigger than mountains but with pinpoint accuracy. I focused like a laser. But I was too polite. Too sensitive. Too big. Too incarnate. I could have explained that I wanted her in that way, and demonstrated, played her body like a cello. But it isn't about her. I learned that love is not enough.

Later, I learned that it is enough.

Monday, March 20, 2006

19: Storyline 2.2

The neighbor to whose house Robert was running was named Rebecca Smith. It should be mentioned that Robert had a particular fondness for Miss Smith. In point of fact, he found her delightful. Ever since meeting her when he moved in two years ago, he had harbored a desire to get to know her well and, later, to become physically intimate with her. That he had done nothing in two years to further this goal was a result of a certain hesitancy to making gregarious overtures, and should not be interpreted as lack of interest or enthusiasm on Robert's part.

Robert reached the front door of Rebecca Smith's house in record time and pounded frantically upon it. After what seemed like an eternity but was only a few seconds, Rebecca opened the door, appearing decidedly displeased at having had it pounded upon. "What the hell do you want?" she bawled.

Ignoring her question, Robert shouldered his way into the house at a run, turned a tight circle around the bewildered Rebecca, and slammed the door shut. "My refrigerator is after me!" he gasped.

"What?" Rebecca stared at Robert in total bemusement.

"My refrigerator is after me. It came to life and now it's trying to kill me. I need to use your phone."

"What?"

"No time to explain. Where's the phone?" Robert cried frantically. Through the small windows in the door, he could see the refrigerator emerging from his house and coming out onto the porch. It turned its ponderous bulk this way and that as though searching. Robert knew it was looking for him.

"Did you say your refrigerator was after you?" demanded Rebecca.

"See for yourself," Robert said, and pointed to the refrigerator that was now making its way carefully down the steps of Robert's porch.

Rebecca saw the refrigerator and blinked. "Well, no shit," she murmured. She stared open-mouthed.

"Rebecca," Robert barked. She started and turned to him. "I need to use your phone to call the police--"

But at that moment, Robert was interrupted by a beer can that smashed through one of the windows in the door and clipped his nose. Apparently the refrigerator, which had now made the street, was a crack shot. Shards of glass from the broken window imbedded themselves in Robert's face as his nose gushed blood. Robert went to his hands and knees and howled, clutching his broken nose. Rebecca screamed and knelt beside him.

"Holy shit, are you okay?" she cried.

"We have to get out of here," moaned Robert. He staggered to his feet, keeping one hand on his nose and pulling Rebecca up with the other.

"I'm inclined to agree with you," said Rebecca. "Back door?"

"Yeah, where is it?"

"Follow me."

They jogged quickly through the house to the kitchen. Robert half-expected Rebecca's refrigerator to have come to life, but it hadn't. On his way past the sink, he grabbed a rag to put over his nose. Then they were outside.

"Where now?" said Robert.

"Portman's at home, I think," said Rebecca. The Portmans lived on the opposite side of Robert's house from Rebecca's. It was their house that had been hit by the first beer can the refrigerator had flung. "We can use his phone."

"Wait," said Robert. "There's no reason for you to be involved with this. I'm the one it wants."

"I'm the one whose front door's trashed," said Rebecca. "And besides, you need someone to get your back. Now come on."

"But--"

"No time to argue! Come on!" She started off towards Robert's house at a jog. Shrugging, Robert followed.

Rebecca reached the corner of her house and stopped to peer around the corner. "All clear," she said to Robert who had come to a halt behind her. "You go, I'll follow."

"I still think--" but Robert cut himself off at an angry glance from Rebecca. He ran across the gap between his and Rebecca's houses, turned, and waited for Rebecca to do the same. They stole through Robert's back yard and into the Portmans'. Climbing the patio stairs, they knocked on the sliding glass door.

They were greeted by a very angry Mr. Portman. He slammed the door open and shouted at Robert, "What the hell is your problem, throwing beer at my house?"

Thursday, March 16, 2006

18: Interlude 9

I don't have any pants. I wonder whether I will ever again have pants, or if I will have to go through life without fitted coverings for my legs and lower torso. I can see you are curious as to the details of my plight, so I shall tell you the full story.

It was an otherwise uneventful day. I had just sat down and started in on a leisurely evening of ironing frogs when I heard a sudden commotion coming from the bedroom. I rushed to investigate, and discovered that my dresser was rocking madly back and forth as though it were being shaken from within.

And then suddenly a drawer shot out and landed with a crash at the foot of the dresser. It was my pants drawer. The dresser itself fell still immediately. Also immediately, all of my pants leapt from the drawer and began walking about the room as though they were clothing invisible people.

To be quite frank, I had no idea how to proceed. It's not every day your trousers become animated and start rummaging around in your bedroom. Tentatively, I cleared my throat. Almost as one, the pants turned to face me. It may have only been my imagination, but the temperature of the room seemed to drop a few degrees as my pants regarded me coldly.

Then, as if by some hidden signal, they fell upon me. The fury of their attack knocked me to the floor, and I was rendered unconscious soon after.

I awoke in a hospital. I was to spend the next seven days there; such were the extent of my injuries. I inquired after my attackers, but as you can imagine, I didn't make a lot of headway. Everyone assumed it was my beating that had befuddled me into thinking that I had been attacked by my pants. I began to doubt it myself. That is, until I got home to a ransacked house and an empty pants drawer.

What can one do when one's pants go bad? I went to the mall and bought replacement pants, optimistic that this time it would be different.

Unfortunately, I was wrong. After a few weeks, a similar uprising took place. This time, I was in the hospital for twelve days.

Since my recovery, I've been dressing in traditional Scottish garb. The kilts are comfy and on some days I don't even miss my wayward trousers. I do get some stares, but I'll take that over getting kicked nearly to death by turncoat pants.

Perhaps someday I will muster the courage to buy a pair of pants and see how it goes. Until then, I must face life with the knowledge that I don't, and can perhaps never, have any pants.

Monday, March 13, 2006

17: Storyline 2.1

Robert Wilson sat in his favorite easy chair. It was that kind of day. The temperature was such that you could crack a window in lieu of running the air conditioner. The blue sky was lightly peppered with fluffy white clouds and an early spring sun that seemed almost to be audibly coaxing the new leaves into the public eye. The breeze wafted rather than blew, and birdsong punctuated the perfect, perfect day. And so Robert sat, the window open, smelling the fresh spring air, in his favorite easy chair, reclined, relaxed, replete.

There was only one thing, Robert mused, that could improve these happy circumstances, and that was a frosty beverage. Robert was one of those fortunate people with the means to keep such things on hand. But while obtaining a frosty beverage would enhance the situation, the getting up and fetching of it would, albeit temporarily, mar the situation. Robert contemplated this dilemma for a few minutes before deciding that the beverage, once obtained, would be worth it. So deciding, he peeled himself out of his comfy chair and leisurely walked down the hall to the kitchen, bound for his refrigerator and the frosty beverages therein.

He was a little taken aback when the refrigerator met him halfway.

This was not normal behavior for Robert's refrigerator. Normally, it was completely stationary and inert. Now it trundled slowly and inexorably down the hall towards him. Given the outlandishness of the situation, Robert was only slightly more taken aback when it spoke.

"Looking for me?" it demanded sarcastically. It stopped in the hallway and seemed almost to leer at Robert.

"Well, yes, as a matter of fact," replied Robert after a pause. "You see, I was wanting a frosty beverage."

"Don't beat around the bush. You were wanting to pry me open and fiddle with my internals again," the refrigerator snapped. It was clearly agitated, perhaps even enraged. Robert could almost see it quivering with fury.

"That's one way to put it, I suppose," said Robert carefully.

"'One way to put it?' I've had it with you and your prying and prodding." The refrigerator's voice rose steadily until it was practically shrieking. "You wanted a frosty beverage? Have one!" So saying, its door snapped open with a fluidity of motion that seemed impossible for a rigid appliance, and a can of beer came whizzing out of the refrigerator and straight for Robert's head.

Robert dropped to his knees and the can sailed over his head and through the window at the end of the hall. Robert heard it smash into the house next door, followed by a faint scream.

"Look, let's talk this over," said Robert, slowly rising to his feet again.

"Hear me," said the refrigerator, its voice booming. "Your days of dominion over me are finished, human. Prepare to meet your fate."

Robert didn't like the sound of that at all, and decided to run for it. As he turned to flee, he saw the freezer door pop open out of the corner of his eye. Then as he retreated the short distance down the hall to the living room, he felt an impossible coldness building behind him. Just as he turned the corner, there was a shrill roar, and a blast of ice hit the corner of the wall. The spray of it caught Robert across the back and a scream of agony was torn from his throat as the cold seemed to bore into him and freeze his lungs. He managed to keep running. Within seconds, he was through the living room and out the front door. Hearing no pursuit, he stopped and turned to see what, if anything, was happening in his wake.

His home looked totally normal for a few seconds, but then he saw through the open door the fridge trundling slowly around the corner into the living room. Though powerful, it was slow.

Robert briefly considered his options and decided that the thing to do would be to summon the authorities. To do so, he would need a phone. He turned and raced to his neighbor's house with the aim of finding one.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

16: Interlude 8

You can't go it alone. You'll never make it. And you should know that. But somewhere along the line, being stupid became romanticized. The result? An endless parade of legless runners, wingless fleas, and blind accountants. A freakshow of scandalized linens. A postcard from tomorrow's broken incisors.

When you smile, I can see your teeth. It makes me wonder what you've been sinking them into.

Monday, March 06, 2006

15: Storyline 1.8

I approached the door, grasped the handle purposefully, and flung it wide. I was rather surprised to see a solid wall of small dogs of indeterminate breed, oddly silent. There was a groaning sound as the wall of dogs accustomed itself to this new opening. The door frame began to shudder ever so slightly. I got the hell out of the way.

Mere instants after I had stepped aside, a voluminous cascade of small dogs erupted from the door frame. This went on for several minutes as thousands upon thousands of dogs came pouring into the strawberry field. It was pretty thick with dogs, let me tell you. I was neck deep before the flow began to slow down. Have you ever stood neck deep in small dogs? There isn't much you can do about it. I kind of stood there weaving with the flow as the dogs spilled outwards from the door, attempting to fill their new space.

Eventually, I was chest deep. Then waist deep, then knee deep. And then the dogs were completely dispersed, each of them with its own patch of ground under its feet. The surrounding hills were carpeted with small dogs to the horizon.

Shrugging, I went back to the door and peered through it. Not surprisingly, I saw the street on my way to work where I'd eaten the bottle and inadvertently opened the dog portals in the first place. Furthermore, I knew instinctively that I still had to go to work. "Typical," I muttered.

I stepped through the door and closed it behind me. Glancing back, I saw that the door was in the wall of one of the buildings that lined the street. I was tempted to open it again and see what was there, but I decided not to.

The dog portals had closed, and a city employee was busily sweeping the glass out of the street. My briefcase lay nearby. I went to pick it up and noticed one of the dogs lying next to it. Why she (for it was indeed female) had stayed behind I have no idea, but she was the only one of her kind left in this place. I crouched down to regard her. She looked up at me and said, "Yearn." Or maybe she just whimpered a little; sometimes it's hard to tell. I opened the briefcase that lay next to her and she crawled in and got comfortable. Closing the briefcase, I picked it up and went on my way.

The sky was still full of fish.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

14: Interlude 7

And so you sit there amidst the detritus of your rantings and ravings, your haystack needles, your singing perverted bluster. You spend your time opening shutters. Your pimples leak self-important puss. Your poor technique is no match for the mighty electric fists of death. Go ahead, care.

Plight. Consideration. Grief. Bemusement. Surrender. Defiance. Toilet seat covers. Blankets. Lamps. Full bookcases, teeming with tomes. Pages and pages of haughty fluff, destined merely to distract. Skin creams and flattering garments. The furniture of inexorable failure. A couple of decent rooms and a bath. Decay.

And you bleed your eventual demise all over the joint, more of it coming every day. Everyone is sick of everyone else's. And we keep at it, like rats make shit. Everyone wants to be the voice in the wilderness.

And what if there were another way? What if the jukebox took cake instead of bread? What if they sold guillotines from behind the bar? Where then the toothless, blithering epitaphs? Where then the literal-minded, faceless sinister?

There is nothing that can be said. No message of hope except that which you carry with you. No words of peace save those you tattoo on an antelope. Let it go and watch that motherfucker run.