Candidate Interview Records: Lester Biggs

27 Oct

I’d like to thank you for coming in today. I hope your trip to our recruitment office was a pleasant one.

“Oh well, yeah. It was good. I, uh, hope this goes well, I spent most of the money I have left on the flight, aha ha…”

Goodness, well I apologize. We only have one recruitment office in the United States, and it does make things difficult for applicants. If it is of any consolation, I’ll make a note of your commitment to joining our company.

            “Thanks, I appreciate it.”

Let’s start by getting to know you. Why don’t you tell me about yourself?

“Well, as you probably know, my name is Lester Biggs… I’m 26 years old, I’ve graduated high school, I have an associates in political studies… People tell me I’m a pretty good guy. I’m a big fan of cars. And Clint Eastwood movies. Um, I’m not sure what else to say… Sorry, I’m not that good at these things… Oh, I went through a couple years of ROTC; I’m sure that will help, right?”

I’m very sure it will, Mr. Biggs. Can you tell me about your employment history?

            “Sure. I last worked for Titan Construction, for the last 2 years. Before that I was working at a car repair shop in my hometown. I did oil changes and stuff. I’ve been going to school off and on through it all.”

Okay. You said you had an associate’s degree in political science. Were you pursuing a bachelor’s degree in the same field?

“Yeah, I was – I am. I, uh, it’s been hard getting it done. It hasn’t been easy for me in the whole school thing. I feel like I make progress sometimes, but other times it seems I’m not going anywhere at all. I guess that’s what bring me here, huh?”

Many applicants come here with the same story. Bear in mind, that has neither a positive nor a negative effect on their placement, although a lack of attachment can be a healthy indicator for placement within our enlisted personnel. That is the depart your are applying for, correct.

            “Yes, ma’am.”

Let’s move on. Can you tell me what you know about Interceptor?

            “I know that it’s a private military company, or whatever. I know they’ve done good things, and I want to do good things too. They saved the Arabian Empire back in ’93, and they stopped the Brugaire Consortium and liberated the Phillipines from the pirate guys. I know it’s hard to get in, and that their commander is a hero that fights right alongside his men.”

Mister Cerregan is a unique man, to be sure. Many who have joined claim him as their inspiration. What is your reason for joining our company?

“I don’t know… I mean, I do know. I feel like I’d work out well. I feel like I can handle it. And I feel… I kinda just feel like… I can’t explain it. Doing anything else, getting a job, a career, getting a Ph.D. or anything… It’s seeming more and more pointless. Have you ever felt that way? I’ve been feeling more and more that way. Like there’s millions of people who are just cogs in the machine in the world, in business, in making money, and I think of becoming just one more of those cogs, and I’m like, why? What is my life going to matter? You know, I told my parents about me coming here. And of course, they were like, you’re going to get yourself killed. But so what? Not that I want to die. But I want to do something. I’m sure everyone says they want to change the world. But say I did graduate. Say I did become a political analyst or whatever. How many thousands of other kids graduated and became political analysts? How many political analysts are there already? Doing good jobs, doing bad jobs, doing nothing… what would I add to that?”

That’s an interesting take. If you were to be accepted into the training academy, the experience would be stressful and rigorous, to say the least. The failure rate is around 90%, and most of those candidates are military veterans. Are you willing accept the odds that you will very likely not pass?

            “Yes, I am.”

And you are aware that if you do succeed as a candidate, you will be relocated to Trebizonde, and will very likely have little contact with your family and friends back home?

“Yep. I’m kinda excited about seeing that place, actually.”

And that during your enlistment, you will have no pay, save a very small monthly stipend, and a discharge bonus of twenty-thousand dollars per year of enlistment upon the termination of your contract?

            “As long as I get fed, hahah!”

And you will be spending the entirety of your time on company property, in a very strict environment? Many recruits find that they have a hard time with the lack of freedom they experience.

            “I’m ready for it.”

Alright then, Mr. Biggs. We will notify you of the results of this interview within 48 hours. I hope you have accomodations?

            “I’ve got a hotel for a couple of days on the east side of town. How long will I need it?”

If you are selected, you will be asked to proceed on the following day to the UC Berkeley campus for entrance examinations and a fitness assessment. You should plan to be there the full day. Lunch will be provided, of course. Bear in mind, if you fail the preliminaries, you will be on your own, unfortunately.

            “Thanks, I guess that’s it then, huh?”

Unless you have any further questions.

            “Nope, I guess I’m set. Thanks for your time, I’m pretty nervous.”

Don’t worry, we all were. Good luck to you Mr. Biggs, and make sure you get some rest in the next two days. If you want some off-the-record advice, go to the beach. Often. It’s really nice out here, and it’ll be a good opportunity for you to think about things. You might not get the opportunity again.

            “I think I’ll do just that. Thanks again.”

INTERVIEW EXIT NOTES: positive attitude and motivation. less experience than the average applicant, but appears psychologically and physically capable.

INTERVIEWER’S RECOMMENDATION: Candidate.

An Absurd Prayer

7 Nov

Thank you, God.
Thank you for allowing me to be here today,
And thank you for the question of whether you were ever here at all.
Thank you for this sanctuary, and thank you for doubt, whichever way it leans.
Thank you for matter, and thank you for energy.
Thank you for the pond and the rock that disturbs it, sending silt in unpredictable and violent trajectories.
Thank you for breath, and thank you for death.
Thank you for all the pain I’ve ever felt, and the few joys that momentarily helped me to forget.
Thank you for all the dissapointment that certainly lies ahead of me, and the comfort I may never receive.
Thank you for meaninglessness that creates meaning that creates meaninglessness again.
Thank you for experience.
Thank you for listening, or if not, thank you for letting me hear myself speak these silly, important words into the void.
Thank you.

An Excercise in Love Letters

1 Oct

I had quite the SXSW experience in the summer of 2013, which included running into a stranger so bewitching that I did something unprecedented: I walked right up to her and told her so. I was rewarded with a surreal night as her escort, and we parted laughing at the assumption that we’d never see each other again. I was desperate to find some scheme to chance another rendezvous. The ploy: an old-fashioned love letter.

It was campy. It was ridiculous. It ran a high chance of freaking her right the fuck out. I knew all these things, but I executed the plot anyways with full knowledge that the chances of success were slimmer than successfully navigating an asteroid field. Here it is, in all it’s blissfully foolish glory.

…And if you’re wondering if she wrote back, she didn’t.

A—–,

I hope this letter finds you well and refreshed from the craziness that was South-by. I particularly remember you telling me that you held a special place in your heart for things which are under the threat of being lost to time, a sentiment you share with me.  Aside from our acquaintanceship, there’s another vanishing treasure I’ve spent some time thinking about lately. It might be all the French literature I’ve been having to read lately, but what happened to the times when courtship was more than “heaven must be missing an angel”, and “oh hey, here’s a drink”? Not that I’m courting you. That would be silly.

But seriously, when was the last time you heard of something so silly as someone writing a love letter to a complete stranger? Who does that anymore? What silly, silly things love letters are, and how equally silly those who write them must be. I certainly feel silly writing this one. What could I possibly expect to come of it? I expect you might be flattered and think me silly, but I also expect that part of the universe which witnesses and appreciates silly things will be glad for this silly gesture which would otherwise pass unnoticed in the grand history of everything.

It has to be more than silly; interesting is an appellation that comes to mind. How many opportunities do we get to do something really interesting in life? How ashamed should we be to pass the opportunity up? Therefore, even though resurrecting the dead art of writing love-letters may be silly, I feel you’ve presented an extraordinary opportunity. Who better to dedicate such endeavors than you? I pray you don’t mistake this dedication as a fool’s whim or convenience for the sake of artistry; shortly I hope to present you with sufficient proofs to convince you of my conviction.

It was a pleasant Sunday evening, and I had expected neither to be enjoying it nor, least of all, to be meeting you. To digress, I was trying my absolute hardest to appear to be enjoying myself on our nation’s most revered holiday, but for the first half-hour my tired smile was beleaguered by a terrible hangover and slight boredom. Happily, this wasn’t the case for long as, whether by chance or by design, I idly swung my shoulders and swept my gaze around the bar at just the right time.

What filled my vision was a page from Balzac, Henri just catching sight of Paquita for the first time. You had just appeared at the top of the stairs, and the first thing I beheld was your bouquet of hair, more beautiful in its natural state than others have attempted to achieve with ribbons and braids and dyes. I had never been so overwhelmed by a profound sense of presence that enslaved my continued attention. I was well rewarded for it: in reality you only took two steps across the stage of my vision, but in perception you were a meteor shooting across the night sky. At the end of that second step, your gaze locked with mine.

Well, it wasn’t so simple as ‘your gaze locked with mine’. When your head turned, your hair laughed in defiance of the wind, and rays of sunlight dimmed in humility rather than compete with the radiance of your face. The sleek lines of your cheeks and chin were nothing less than regal. Your very existence proves the age-old hypothesis that Aphrodite owned a time machine, as she certainly patterned her nose after your own. Your lips spoke all at once of innocence, experience, familiarity, reservation, and a smile just waiting for the season that would give it cause to bloom.

Thus, with you sitting a temptation’s breadth away, myself a fleeting hour from fading from the city’s memory, and the each of us purloining glances from the other like duelists exchanging blows, I resolved to take the only course of action available to me. Oh, I pretended to internally debate for a brief second. I had nothing to gain yet nothing to lose; however, I couldn’t stand the thought of depriving you of vital information about the arcane powers you wield over men.

It is a rare thing when someone stops another’s heart mid-beat, as you did me, and it would be no small crime to withhold the truth from you; in fact, it would have been nothing less than lying to your face. If I was ever struck dead by beauty before, you must have erased it from my memory. If such a thing has ever happened before, whoever caused it certainly lacked the magnitude to compel me to act.

Now here I am at the conceivable end of this letter wondering if anything I wrote did either you or myself justice. I don’t think I’ve ever been so doubtful of any of my compositions as this one, but here goes.

Dear beautiful, mysterious, bewitching A—–, or A—, or whatever your name is: if it seems quaint, quixotic, or even questionable that someone who standing at your side was as a foreigner in strange port should be pursuing a rapport where the common wisdom would decline, I assure you it is twice so to me. I hope you find the notion absurd and pointless, for if you find it serious and completely unamusing, then I will have failed my purpose.

I didn’t get into this with any expectations of writing a second letter, so if you respond with silence, I will take your silence as a tacit appreciation of this gesture and I in turn will have a tacit appreciation for having the opportunity to write such a grandiose, ridiculous thing. If you respond with U.S. Marshals and a restraining order on my doorstep, I will understand immediately why no one writes love letters anymore. If you respond with a letter of your own, my ego will joyously swell, and I’d suggest we become pen-pals. I’ve never had a pen-pal before, and honestly never felt the need for one, but for you I think I could make an exception.

So, once again, thanks for this opportunity to stretch my artistic wings, and thank you much more for giving me an awesome memory of an unforgettable stranger.

Best regards, R—–.

Refurbished

20 Sep

           “She herself is a haunted house. She does not possess herself; her ancestors sometimes come and peer out of the windows of her eyes, and that is frightening. She has the mysterious solitude of ambiguous states; she hovers in a no-man’s land between life and death, sleeping and waking…”

            I wasn’t sure how much more of this senile prattling I could take. He surely must have thought he was being eloquent, but I saw it for the long-winded self-indulgence it was. These types are always so full of themselves. They fancy themselves poets and philosophers, justifying their mundane trade by elevating it to art.

            “…behind the hedge of spiked flowers, Nosferatu’s sanguinary rosebud…”

            No, you could never be simply a lonely old tinkerer who spends entirely too much time with his dolls, could you? Not when Allah gave you a burlap sack filled with chatter-birds in place of lungs, it seems. Still… there was no denying this one had a certain sort of beauty to her – a sort of pride in form. The polished bronze castings, the neatly welded seams, the petit, gilded rivets…

            “…served before she was even born. And she’ll serve you, oh yes, but you and how many others? Who could dare know…”

            Prophet’s sake, the old man was still babbling on. His back was to me now, his hands gesturing wildly around the automaton. I seized the chance to slip out of the workshop and back into the sales floor. The young man minding the front might have looked a bit disaffected, but he also looked infinitely more capable of concluding the sale than the wild-eyed, wispy-haired craftsman.

            “I’ll take it.” Continue reading

Love Story/ies

28 Aug

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What will you gain from me?
I’ve already

spoken the sweetest words.
made the grandest gesture.
shared the sincerest kiss.
gained the fullest completion.
felt the completest loss.

I’ve already written the perfect love story
With others so many to the insignificance of a one;
A chapter with her, a page with another -
I don’t even know where this line came from -
But you can start to see how it is for me to feel
Like I’ve come to this bargaining table
Where you sit ready to draw up a new contract
And I in the doorway with empty hands.

Could this be our restaurant?
No darling, I brought Charlotte here first.
Could this be our song?
Susanne and I, State Highway 70, top of our lungs.
What about going to the theater every year?
That was Darla’s thing.
What about saying “I love you”?

They’re all the same: they begin,
They end, like this one surely will,
Which really isn’t so bad,
Except that…

All before you have left me with a line, a page, a chapter.
All before me shall leave me with a synopsis.

Bricks

25 Aug

Rumble-clatter, clinker-clunker, the sounds my cart makes as I push it. Sometimes I wonder if it annoys them, the people walking by, the people sitting on benches or talking on their phones or smoking their cigarettes – God, the smell of those cigarettes, if I could only get a drag. I bet it annoys them, hell, it annoys me, it drives me crazy every day, but fuck them if it annoys them, what’ve they done for me? What’ve they done to keep me off the sidewalk pushing my noisy cart around?

Clinker-clatter, the wheels of my shopping cart go over the brick-cobbles. Who’s stupid idea was it to make a sidewalk out of bricks, anyways? If it was made out of normal sidewalk stuff, it wouldn’t be half so noisy. Goddamned brick-people, it’s their fault I’m out of my head all day with this racket.

And the cans, they’re noisy too. I don’t even know why I have them anymore, they stopped giving me money for them two months ago. But I still see others going through bins for them, so I figure someone’s gotta be taking them somewhere. I just gotta find out who.

Sometimes I think I rattle by this coffee shop every day just for the smell of it. Oh, coffee – I remember coffee. Sometimes I dream about coffee. Look at this kid here, enjoying his. Click-clacking away on that little computer all important-like with his coffee and his coffee cake. I used to eat coffee cake too. I remember. Soft and sweet, like kissing a girl. Kissing a girl, now that’s something I can’t even remember. Lupe doesn’t count, she ain’t hardly a real girl. Hell, she’s ain’t hardly a person, to look at’er. Looks like a catfish fucked a rat, to look at’er. She smells like piss, and her mouth not only smells like and tastes like rusty, fly-buzzin’ dumpster fulled-up with beer bottles, it feels like you kissed one too. Whacked-out skunk of a woman, kissing everyone ’cause she’s too crazy not to.

Is he lookin’ at me now? The fuck you lookin’ at, kid? Go’on back to your click-clacking, go shove your face full of coffee and coffee-cake. And I’ll go back to my click-clacking too.

Jesus Lord, I hate people, going on with themselves and whatever they do to keep themselves from pushing a cart. They should all push a cart a few days in their life, just so they’d know. Then maybe they wouldn’t stare so goddamn much. It’s not like I’m bothering them. Anymore, anyhow. I don’t do the beggar bullshit. I can’t do it, I know I sure tried once or twice, but I don’t got a gimmick like a missing leg or a baby-belly or a sob story, and ‘sides, it makes me feel like an ass, and I don’t like feeling like an ass. It’s not like it’s hard to find bread behind a sandwich place. It ain’t even hard. I ain’t gotta beg for it, neither. I’ve got bread, and my cart, and maybe a beer every few days if I feel like begging, or a gas station hot-dog. That’s all I need, and I ain’t gotta beg. I got my cart, I got my ways, and I ain’t gotta beg. I’m still a man, ain’t I?

Now what kind of ass leaves a half-drunk soda? I wish I were the kind of ass who could afford to do that. I wish I were that ass – Har! How’s that sound? Maybe I shouldn’t grumble so much, or I might be an ass for grumbling about a free half-soda. Jesus Lord, it’s so good and sweet going down, even half-warm. But it’s just not right, that there’s people who’ll just leave a half-drunk soda when there’s people like me who’ll drink a half-drunk soda.

I’ll sure stand in front of this door while I finish it, though. People always going in and out here, in and out and letting out all that cold air for me. I ain’t had a good minute like this in a good minute, second-hand soda in second-hand air. I wonder – just wonderin’, that’s all – if I wandered in there, how long could I get outta the heat before they send someone to send me off? It ain’t worth it, of course. Never anything’s worth being treated like an animal, like a possum wandered in on the porch. I ain’t that far gone. I’m still a man. Time to keep along.

Clattery-clack, those sounds mean I’m movin’. Clack-clat-CRACK.

For fuckssakes, what just happened? One minute I’m just… and then my cart’s crackin’ and crashin’ and sendin’ a whallop through my body that feels an awful lot like that one time I got hit by a car. Now for fuckssakes – why in the fuck did what go knocked my cart over? Jesus Lord, Jesus Lord, my shit’s all over the place on the ground. And all those asses are looking at me now. I gotta try and get my cans and my magazines and that boot I got yesterday and in my cart back up straight – but it wont get up straight. What the hell. Why won’t it? What the hell – there’s a brick, and there’s a – what the hell – what the hell is this wheel? Is that my wheel I know that’s not my wheel is that my goddamned wheel? Goddammit it’s those goddamned bricks. Goddammit bricks goddammit brick-makers goddammit cart. I gotta stop cussin and get this cart outta here where people can’t see and stare. Goddamn ‘em why are there so many of ‘em? Go crash a brick yourselves. I think I thought that, but I mighta said it. Alright, we gotta push her without a wheel and get gone. These fuckers here. These fuckers here and goddamn I can’t bear the sound of that piece of cart scraping along the bricks. These fuckers here and of course my cart topples again why wouldn’t it with my bullshit all over the sidewalk BRICKS FUCKING BRICKS BRICKS BRICKS GODDAMMIT YOU FUCKERS GO CRASH A BRICK.

My throat’s sore and so I been screamin’ for sure. I know too that it hurt my foot when I kicked the shit outta that dead cart, I knew it but I don’t feel it. I gotta – I gotta get out of here, out of these bricks. More and more are looking now and bricks, oh Jesus Lord, I can feel them and their eyes all over me, touching me like a hundred bricks. Goddamned these brick-makers, what’re they doin’ with nothing better to do than gawk at me and my cart and they ignore me just fine unless it’s me and my cart all over the bricks? Stupid, stupid, stupid people, they’re making me so angry and I can feel my cheeks hottening up and my eyes stinging but I can’t stay here. This bricks is when they call in the cops and bricks they take me somewhere i know I don’t want to go bricks. I gotta go, I’m telling myself. Bricks. And I don’t know how with all them bricks there, but I go.

I wasn’t knowing where I was for a while, cursing all those bricks and running, but I know where I am now but not how I got here. Where I am’s where a lot of others sit here under this overpass, others like me but not like me. A disgusting bunch, sitting around in their filth, and now I’m smack dab in the middle of them. They aren’t like me because they keep all their shit, if it even is their shit, scattered around them or heaped in piles, not in a cart like I do. Animals, all of them, without carts like I have – like I had.

Look at them looking at me. They’ve got angry eyes, hungry eyes, or empty eyes. They all deserve to be here, half of ‘em because they’re completely gone and the other half because they deserve it, and neither half like me much telling by the way they’re looking. I don’t deserve to be here, I gotta get out – I’ve gotta get another cart quick before I turn into them. But Jesus, I’d have to go miles to the closest shit-hole mart where pricks leave their carts in the grass and all over the place, and there’s others there too, others who look at me with the same stupid eyes as them that are glued to my back right now. But Jesus, why is this happening to me? Why does anything happen to me, why’s it I have to go hump my ass all that way under the sodomizin’ heat to get me a cart? Why’s there gotta be so many goddamned bricks?

I just want to fall on my ass and do nothing, which is easy enough. It don’t even hurt much. I just want to close my eyes and not have to open them again, Jesus please just make it that easy. I’m tired, I’m just so sick and tired of trying so hard, and I mean it this time. Every time I end up telling myself it’ll get better because it can’t get any worse. Years, I been telling myself that, but it always gets worse. Somehow they find things to keep taking from me, most times things I didn’t even know I had. I don’t deserve to be here. I tried so goddamned hard living right and being right, and it kept never being right enough. I don’t want to be here, I just want to be back when things were good, is that so much? Just open my eyes and have it be like they never started taking it all when things got bad and when I tried to get better I couldn’t because they already took so much and it just got worse and so they kept taking more? If they’d just have left me be, left me alone, I wouldn’t be where I am. It’s not my fault. It’s not my fault there’s so many bricks and people makin’ them, tripping me up. It’s not my fault if I can’t help but try to hide a little everytime someone comes after me, is it? Even if it is my fault, a little, it wouldn’t be any of my fault if there weren’t so many bricks to trip over to begin with. Jesus Lord, there’s just so many of them. Please Lord God Almighty, I’m ready for it to be over, I’m done this time, just take me. Funny how I’ve always been afraid of dyin’. I remember I used to lie in bed as a kid, wide eyed and pissing myself just thinking about being dead. The darkness, the nothing, no more seeing and no more thinking, and no more remembering – but I’m ready for you to do it, just please do it. I’m sure I’m too much of a coward, Lord, or I woulda done it myself a long time ago. Funny – funny how a man can be so afraid of a thing and still want it so badly at the same time.

It’s dark now. I must have had my eyes closed for hours. Goddamn, I hope no one was watching, this is no way to see a man with tears and snot all over his face. I’m still a man, ain’t I? Thinking and thinking, so much thinking takes a lot out of you and I’m pretty damned all wore out. I just… I just need a good sleep now. I can even rest my head on this step here. Tomorrow will be different. Tomorrow I’ll go find a cart, and then I can start making things better again. I feel a little better already, and it won’t be half so bad once I get me a new cart. I just gotta wait it out, and I’ll be back rollin’ across those bricks again in no time.

Our Hearts Believe Otherwise

21 Jun

Just as the belly growls and shakes
For want of a single morsel,
The heart will violently quake
When left as an empty vessel.
Both organs give trembling signals of lack;
Both digesting what can’t be given back.

Just as the plowman’s seeds, spring-sown,
Bear fruits for him, to store or sell,
The mother possesses alone
The fruits of her labor as well.
Who dare tell a mother where her reign ends?
How many ploughs become swords when bough bends?

If she is free, as she believes,
If lovers aren’t things we possess,
Why does she cry the day he leaves?
If he’s not hers, how is she less?
Though our mouths deny others own their kiss,
Our hearts believe otherwise for those they miss.

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