Showing posts with label Story. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Story. Show all posts

Monday, September 26, 2011


The dress I bought you was a bad guess at what you wanted for a birthday or Holiday
when I take an unjustified sleep. I thought white polka dots against Communist red
would make you think of white flags and equality, that you’d stop asking me who I voted for or what I wanted for dinner if our lives were meatless from now on, that you’d let it go at that…:That” turned out to be a hanger in the front hall closet where you put the dress for future reference every time we came home. I remember you looking at it after a month, holding at arm’s length, you were shaking your head just slightly, a downward glance at white polka dots against a fire engine red material that made the air grow heavy with aromas that hadn’t been invented. Lately I’ve dreamed about climbing telephone poles. There are so many lines voices crossing one another across static and bad words, words and their inflection a sparking, electronic snarl. I knew one of those voices was asking me who I wanted for mayor, what I wanted for dinner, that’s all they wanted to know and more than I knew how to answer.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Grank stared at the microphone that was staring back at him, and as his eyes adjusted t the dark, he could see a room full of hooded, shaved, tattooed and love starved waifs and curbside geniuses looking at him, clutching notebooks of assorted thicknesses, scraps of paper, waiting their turn on stage, waiting to see what he had. Grank tugged at his collar, dropped his neatly typed sheets, and began to rant. Horrible feedback washed up to the stage from the coffee bar. Grank made the most of the vibe he’d been given.


Grank was in a trance, raised his arms as if receiving great wisdom from cloud gods watching from just above the whirling ceiling fan that only seemed to make the coffeehouse hotter, he was in the groove , he had the élan from Ceylon, he was indeed the PaduchaBazooka©, and as he lowered his arms and raised his head, ready to open his eyes and witness the stunned silence that was is genius’ calling card, something struck him in the head. He opened his eyes in time to see a coffee mug come flying at him and then feel it , painfully, smash him in the nose. Then someone hit in the back of the head with the microphone stand. His eyes were closed again as he collapsed to the stage and curled into a ball as the steel toed tips of a dozen Doc Martin boots dug their treaded thickness into his ribs.

“Your poetry poetry blows donkey dongs in H-E- DOUBLE HOCK STICKS” someone screamed before they kicked Grank in the head.

“Tough crowd” was what Amos said as he leaned over the table to make the remark to Shelltone. Shelltone closed her notebook and took a sip of her Hammerhead.

“Yeah, these Fray fuckers are a real tense bunch”.

“Uh huh” said Amos, who then arose to get his licks in.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

The Amends

Something a bit different while I cook up a terse review for Live Free or Die Hard; a story, fiction, not autobiographical, not really. But there are some personality traits shared with me, I think, in this sketch of a young asshole feeling some pangs of guilt for being precisely the jerk he chose to be.


There's a woman who says she remembers me from the years of
Junior college, amid the ashtrays on cafeteria tables over flowing with
stubbed cigarettes.I was her penny whistle valentine, blowing love notes into the
air with the smoke rings, drawings of guitars in smeared blue ink
and her name scripted in psychedelic letters that leaped across
the lined note book pages like hooked marlin taut on a fisherman's line.Somewhere in the mix we tangoed to King Crimson records after a concert where she drummed her lips while one guitarist after another played to a crowd who might be looting stores on another night cursed with murder.

There was music in the living room despite all the scratches
and pops, we were surface noise on that mornings' stacked papers,
we were riffs with no song to belong to, two empty trash cans
tumbling down the cement steps of the emptiest building in the

Done, spent, hallow in the parts of the soul where
personality lived like a share cropper harvesting borrowed land ,I
stare at the ceiling in the dark and think of how many ceilings
it's been that I've stared at up until now, the cracked and
curling off white paint, spider webs in high corners, Spackle
and wood beams painted over in hasty transformations that seal
off history, fingers poke through in the hole in my gut and
practice shadow animals. I stared into the dark and heard her next to me, her
breathing , whistles and grunts circled through her nose, her
breast rose and fell, visible from the bathroom light, still on,
I was alone, thinking of escape. I dressed, I left, and I dropped out of school and took a job at a Colony Kitchen, washing dishes and prepping food,
I drank too much, never called her.

I felt like shit.

But this today, the second half of the Nineties , and twenty
years of life and death in every mundane gutter, gulch and gulp
of having fun hasn't eased anything, there's always been that
tapping at the door, getting louder, the paint cracks and curls
again, I've stared at it for the hours that years take, wishing
it weren't there. I still felt like shit.

I got her number through one of those odd times of the years
when it seems everyone you've ever known turns up, heavier, puffy
with new chins, some one else I was went to the JC with who
also knew her said that she was back in town, working at the
University as an administrator for one of the graduate
departments, and on a hunch I asked If he had her phone number.
He did, and the business card he wrote it on the back of found
it's way into my wallet, where I half hoped it would age and
stick to the other cards there like hands clasped for too

It was a home phone number, and I called that night around dinner
time, desperate for relief. While the other end rang, the walls
felt like they flew away and that the floor under me dropped
out, the muscles of my neck tightened.

A voice came on, cheery and high on a soaring note, and I
recognized it as hers, deeper, burnished by cigarette smoke, but
the same, as always. I stumbled through an introduction, my
voice a ratta-tat-tat of syllables and vowels not sure of which
way to march, but I went on, she only said, "Oh, hi, uhhh..."
My neck strained cradling the phone against my shoulder while I
fumbled across the coffee table feeling for a Marlboro pack. I
imagined shaking her head at the other end, maybe while her
husband looked on, leaning against the kitchen doorway.

"Well", she said, "what do you want?"
I paused, unable to reach the pack, and then gripped the phone
like I meant to choke the life from it.

"Oh yeah, well this seems kinda weird, I know, twenty five
years without a call or a card, but, uhhhh, it's kinda important
for me, because, you know, you remember, that night we went to
the Mountain and Pat Travers concert...?"

"Yes?" Her voice had gotten clinical, an administrators'
tone for students who couldn't enter the negotiate the mystery of an add/drop card.
I tried to imagine they way she looked back in the day, fresh and perky, hardly into her her twenties when sensation and impulse were more important to learning of the turns of the world than lectures and slide rules,but I could see her right now, frowning down at the Phone as if looking down at some one caught trying to pick up the shards of a bowl they'd dropped, the corners of her mouth up turned and hardened into a smile that framed her face in a fleeting snapshot of disgust. This didn't feel like Homecoming.

"And later, remember? Your roommate was in Berkeley, and we
came back and played King Crimson"

"Yes I do, and I hated that band."

"Did you? Sorry to force them on you, but uhhh, anyway, that
actually kinda brings up to why I'm calling."

"Does it? Listen, this is a little odd for me, and I have a
function tonight I have to get ready for, so if you get to the
point, I think we'd all be happier."

"Well , okay, okay, it's like I just said, and I want to say
I'm sorry."
"What? Sorry for what?"
"For what happened that night."
"Your sorry for making me listen to King Crimson records?"
"No! No, it was about later, you know, what happened later
after we put the King Crimson records on."

"Well, you've got me, I have to say, after twenty five years
and you call talking about one night of my life, and the only
thing I can think of is that you're sorry you were a good

"Hush, mum, err, I was actually..."
"This is a first in my life time, imagine."
"It would be, I suppose it would, but , uh, it's about that
but something else, too, I felt shitty about it, I..."

"Hold on, just a second, you're trying to apologize for
something I can't remember from twenty years ago, and we haven't
brought each other up to speed. Let me ask, what have you been
doing all this time?"

"Long story, really..."
" I suppose it would be, so shorten it. What are you doing Now?"
"Now? I'm a buyer for a book store, I meet with publishers
reps and survey their catalogs, and I handle special orders..."

"That's special. Still writing?"
"Poetry and movie reviews?"
"Uhh, yeah, for a weekly publication..."

"Okay, now I remember , it's good to hear from you..."
"Thanks, okay, that brings to why I called..."
"Alright, then."

" I mean, after we were done, you fell asleep and I was awake
and when I heard you snoring, I got dressed and left and never
called you again, never tried to contact you, and the sum of it
is that I've felt like a piece of stinking shit for years and
I'm calling to say that I'm very sorry I did that, I was selfish
and unwilling to commit to some one and I did the wrong thing,
and I'm sorry..."

There was silence, the dead air on the wire seemed to
crackle in the interstices between the tones her voice might
produce, the hum of atoms spinning along the wire. She spoke finally.

"I appreciate your attack of conscious, even if it did take
you almost a quarter of century to scrape up the change to make
the call, but it seems you've been disturbed by nothing in
fact. Forgive me, my memory is dim, but the best I can remember
was that it was a date, the concert was fun, the King Crimson
music was screechy, the sex was good, and you should be glad to
hear that, and the fact that you were gone in the morning never
to seen again was only too typical of the time, no big deal..."

"Not a big deal, at the college I thought you were cute a
braggart and shallow, but I was horny, and I agreed to go out
with you because it was something to do on a Friday night, but I
was not looking for a relationship, and if I was, it wouldn't
have been with you. You might say that you're disappearing act
was a blessing, you spared me some awkward conversation , I
suppose, but I can't say, because the whole thing hasn't been
at the front of my thinking over two and a half decades..."

"I see."
"But I'm glad you called. Now I have to get ready to meet
the graduate students..."
I wanted to continue talking. "What kind of work do you do?"

"This, that, and the other thing I have to leave. Maybe
I'll tell you in another twenty five years when you call to
apologize for making an odd phone call..." She called out to
someone, "Dear, where are my car keys? Oh, this is just someone
from the high school alumni group looking for a donation. On the
hall table? Thank you sweetie..."
"Look, I've changed, I've grown..."
"Sure you have, tall and strong like an oak. Yes, I have the
address, and I'll make the check payable to the Alumni
"And tax deductible? Fine. Thank you. Goodbye."

She hung up, and the sound was a gentle cradling, the receiver rocking slightly and then falling quiet. My receiver was slippery with sweat , and I hung up only after a loud tone pierced the stunned silence . after which a recorded voice announced that I need to hang up first if I wanted to make another call.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Cocktail Jazz

A true story of what this life used to be like.-tb ____________________________________________

 " Fuck me, I want to play " said Spank. He sat straight up in his seat and rattled a finger tip drum solo on the small table where he sat, in dark cocktail lounge on a cul-de-sac near the down town airport. He and his friend Slake were in the rear, and as Spank stared toward the front of the room, he could barely make out the musicians on the bandstand, a sax, piano, drums, and bass combo who were blurred by the hard, red burn of the lone stage light and the thick curtain of cigarette smoke that hung in the air like frayed curtains. But even with his vision obscured by gleam and gauze, Spank could see that the hand members were engaged in a mission that obliterated the reality of the dive bar whose leather cushion booths had been slashed with knives, spoons, or forks and had been mended with seeming miles of grey duck- tape, whose patrons were naught but arms holding drinks latched to torsos whose faces and gray, withered lips sought the &anonymity~ of the darkness above the scant glows of the lounges discreet, lighting that revealed traces of a once gay-colored carpet that bared witness to years of endless trips to the restrooms, empty tables covered with smeared glasses where thousands of memories had been forgotten and recalled again, and particles of dust floating unfettered, swirling streams that made the room seem positively air tight. Spank was still tapping his finger against the table, bobbing his head, squinting to see the combo as it rumbled on. The blues they'd been playing, slow and churning, had been going on for what seemed like the longest traffic light Spank had ever sat for, but the musicians kicked up the tempo. Hand over hand, the drummer slammed his Sticks on the skins hard, like someone banging on a locked door, the bassist accelerated the blood pulse, and the pianist and sax player played a: twisted melody in frantic unison, a race to the last bar. Spank thought he cold feel a breeze in the room. Something seemed to disturb the curtain of listless smoke. He took a wobbling glance at Slake, who was reclined against his chair, taking a slug from his long neck Bud. He looked back to the bandstand. The sax player was in the center of the platform, completely still as though bolted in position except for the streaking commotion of his fingers over the keys. A deluge of notes filled the room, every honk and squeak a cry of escape, a gasp for breath, a memory of fresh air. " Oh God, Slake " he said, leaning over the table, " This is it, man. These guys have struck the lode..." Spank paused and wrapped his hand around his Scotch rocks. " .. .This what we've looking for all afternoon. I wanna play... " He put his glass to his lips for a swig, but all he could taste were the slivers of melting ice that dissolved instantly on his tongue. " Where's our waitress " he demanded. Slake put his bottle on the table. " Can't say where she went " he offered, his gaze divided the bandstand into shimmering half frames that danced with each other. the bandstand and Spank, who's tapping had become arrhythmic and fidgety, " But that shouldn't matter too much now, Spank, you're about two and half sheets right now, and any more would just ruin a good buzz. " Spanks' finger stopped tapping, and his hand unfurled in the, inches from Slakes' chin, as though asking for loose change. " C'mon, Slake " he said, his voice a whine, " just when the getting' good. We've been looking for some music, some seen like this... " Slake rubbed his chin and watched the path of his friends' hand as he moved it away from his face and made a slow, sweeping gesture to indicate the lounge, the " It " he was signifying. Slake laughed. " Tell you, buddy, we've been driving since one this afternoon and we've been to six bars- all over the place, from La Jolla and into the Valley, and now we're here near the airport, on a dead end street in a dump where A.A. should have a recruiting table, and you're telling that this is the place? Slake was still smiling and looked about the room and could see details Spanks' hazed vision couldn't: six drinkers, all men, sitting at the bar whose once rich mahogany had had-- its grain insulted with many smothering of varnish, faded and ripped travel posters hung on the walls with a Sixties Pan Am jet flying over the Taj Mahal, Big Ben and Diamond Head, the bandstand where the combo played looking pathetic and rickety, -covered with an--- - incomprehensible variety of carpet samples fused together with duck tape probably snipped from the same all purpose roll, the musician~ themselves very old in a loud polyester ensembles ; shirts and flared golf pants, hunkering over their instruments, looking not at all transfixed by the spell of the music they played, but tired, with their concentration fading. The combo closed the number in irregular jumps and starts; somewhere in the upped ante of tempo they'd lost the thread of the instrumental dialogue. They spoke in tongues they couldn't find the words for the , sounds of the body beating its limbic memory against the keys and the animal skins, seeking passion, heat, fire in a cave. Sour notes, clashing pitches. Spanks' hand dropped to its side, and then his arm fell toward the floor. He felt dizzy. " Fuck me" he said, "I wanna play ." " You can find someone else to fuck you, pal, but I will say this: two- for- one specials will make you pay the cost for being the boss in half the time ." Slake looked at his watch. " Ready to go? " he asked. Spank was seeing Slake in double vision, and was ready to admit defeat when what he'd been doing all afternoon caught up with him. Slakes' smile shrank when he saw his friends' Cheeks swelled to the size of water balloons. Then he saw a jet stream of lumpy puke burst from Spanks' mouth. Slake had the sensation of being stricken with a small fire hose. The saxophonist was wiping down his keys with a dirty rag when he looked across the room to see what the commotion was. He saw one guy standing up, dripping with puke, trying to get rid of the stuff with desperate snaps of his arms, yelling "You fuck face, you goddamned alike, I can't take you anywhere" while his buddy was face down on the table, nose in the wretch, moaning in a way that begged for a bullet. The saxophonist perched his instrument in the stand and nudged the pianist, who was yawning and cracking his knuckles one by one and savoring the snap each joint made. "Who are those two? " he asked, "never seen those two before." The saxophonist gave a laugh that was brisk and snorting, contemptuous. " More tourists " he said, , shoving his hands into his pocket," and its a good bet one of them just had a religious experience. .."