Bricks

25 Aug

Rumble-clatter, clinker-clunker – these are 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. Whose 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. It’s those 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. Continue reading

Bricks

26 Jun 1024x1024

The story “Bricks” originally appeared in The Sagebrush Review Volume 9, a literary journal of the University of Texas at San Antonio. Enjoy.

Rumble-clatter, clinker-clunker – these are 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. Whose 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. It’s those 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 own while he’s 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 ain’t hardly a person, to look at her. Looks like a catfish fucked a rat, to look at her. She smells like piss, and her mouth not only smells like and tastes like a rusty, fly-buzzing dumpster full-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 looking at me now? The fuck you looking 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 ain’t like I’m bothering them. Ain’t anymore, anyhow.

I don’t do the beggar bullshit. I can’t do it. I know I sure tried once or twice, but I ain’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 ain’t even 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, most times. I got my cart, I got my ways, and I ain’t gotta beg. I’m still a man, ain’t I?

Click-click-clickery-clack. 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. And 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 wondering, that’s all, no harm in it – 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, my cart makes more racket than I can stand sometimes. The people on the other side of the street from me are all smiles and jokes. Sometimes, they make me think that there’s something in this world worth smiling over, but then I see the people on my side of the street, like these folks here. They’re pretending to not be looking at me, but they are. They point their eyes all over the place, on the floor, on the windows they’re passing, on each other, everywhere but me. They look like they’ve got other things to look at but me, but they’re really trying really hard to not look at me. They look like they’re trying so hard not to look that it hurts them.

Clack-clat-ca-CRACK. That’s not the way my cart’s supposed to sound. My knee hurts. Did I just twist an ankle? Why did my cart make that sound? Why is it on the ground, and me with it? For chrissakes, what just happened? One minute I’m just… and then my cart’s cracking and crashing and sending a whallop through my body that feels an awful lot like that one time I got hit by a car. Now for chrissakes – why in the fuck did what just 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 shoes and my magazines and that book I got yesterday and all in my cart back up straight – but it won’t get up straight. I just set you up straight, cart, why the hell won’t you stay up? Goddamn stupid cart, what’s the matter with you falling down like that, stupid piece of – what the hell – there’s a brick sticking up over here, and that looks a lot like blood from my knee on it, and there’s a – what the hell – what the hell, is this a wheel?

Is that a wheel from my cart? 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 breaking my goddamn cart. I gotta stop cussing and get this cart outta here where people can’t see and stare. Goddamn them why are there so many of them? 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 looking and talking. 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 falls 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, so I know I’ve been screaming for sure. I know too that it hurt my foot when I kicked the shit outta that dead cart. I don’t feel it, but I know 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. Goddamn these brick-makers, what’re they doing 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 bricks, they’re making me so angry and I can feel my cheeks hottening up and my eyes stinging but I can’t stay bricks 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 was gone, and I musta gone off pretty fast. For a while there, while I was going, at least while I musta been going, I musta had another fit because I can’t even begin to recall where I thought I was going, cursing all those bricks and running. I know where I am now. Where I am now is not a good place. Where I am now is 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 ‘em 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 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 sodomizing 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, and it’s 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’ve 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 to 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 making them, always tripping me up. It’s not my fault if I can’t help but try to hide a little every time 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. I don’t want to turn into one of those others, I don’t want to turn into an animal. 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 dying. 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 bad at the same time. Daddy wasn’t afraid, he went right on ahead. Please Lord God, if you could just make it easy so I could see my Daddy –

Daddy. If he could see me, oh God, he would be ashamed of me. My Daddy would hate me. He’d cuss and call me no good and worthless and too lazy to straighten myself up. But Daddy, I tried. I tried so hard to be like you. Like all them. I tried to do everything like everyone does but I couldn’t figure out how. Daddy, please don’t hate me. Dear God, please don’t ever let my Daddy see me.

It’s dark now. I musta 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 just lie down here in the grass and no one will even care.

Tomorrow will be different. I’ll find a new cart. There’s plenty of carts in this town. Tomorrow I’ll go find a cart, and then I can start trying to make 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’ll forget my Daddy and how it’s my fault and everything. I just gotta wait it out. I’ll go back and get my stuff that fell out. It probably ain’t even gone. I’ll be back rolling across those bricks again in no time.

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11 Apr

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Bones – Missing Pages #1

22 Mar 800px-west_seattle_bridge_from_12th_ave_s_viewpoint_01_-_cropped

Outside the cab of Jim’s little old Nissan, the day was beautiful. The sky was a rare shade of blue, and so clear the sun gets to put its greedy hands all over everything it damn well pleases, and those things feel warm to the protests of the northwestern chill. The archetypal May in Seattle: a contradictory dichotomy, just one of many; corporate prosperity and comfortable poverty, bicycling enthusiasts and murderous topography, Starbucks imperialism and sovereign cafés; the city was full of them.

Traffic was light, even for noon on a weekday.  Only a couple of other cars shared the bridge with him, and they were coming the opposite way over the Duwamish. On the far side, the hills of West Seattle resembled a studded belt, bedazzled by a swath of trapezoidal suburban roofs. One of those studs was the old house, where Lisa still lived with their son.

Continue reading

PDA

15 Mar

But baby, the love that you crave is public domain.

But true love is secrets.

True love is whispers.

What waves carry are echoes of unfulfilled promises.

A Letter to my Father, circa 2009

21 Feb

I put this letter in a christmas gift to my father. He has never mentioned it, and I still don’t know if he has ever read it. I don’t know if I could ever repeat these words to him to his face without breaking.

We pass each other in the same house, never saying more than a few rehearsed words to each other. What I never say to you is how I think about you every day, whether you’ve been in the same shoes I’m in, what you hope and fear, whether you dream of me the same way that I dream of you.

As a man I have had thoughts of you I couldn’t have had as a child. I could never have thought of you as being same as I, doubting yourself, having regrets and uncertainty. I would never claim to know you intimately, but simultaneously I want to let you know that I understand now. I know what it is to be you, to be a man.

I want to let you know so much that it’s so hard in the world that I live in, one where making your father proud is shades of grey, rather than black and white. With all the honesty in my heart I want you to know that there have been moments in my life that no one will ever know of, much less you. Moments where I told the truth even though I knew it would bring me pain and misery, moments that I did the right thing thing even though no one would ever know. Moments that I know would have made you proud.

If we never speak to each other again before our time comes, my only regret would be to never let you know how highly I think of you. All the questions I have about you, about your life, about what you have done, do not matter at all. Even the smallest moment in your life has led you to create me, and in turn, every moment in my life; the beautiful moments when I find the greatest joy, the horrific moments full of dread and despair; I will cherish all of them, because my moments only exist because of your moments. I am thankful for each moment of your life that I shall never know.

I will remember always that no matter how different I consider myself from you, that we are cut from the same cloth, and that my flesh is yours. I wish you knew that although I failed in my own mind to outright make you proud in a world that judges by social and material wealth, that I have come so far, and learned so much in the short time I’ve been given, and I can’t wait to learn more, so that when I die we may both rest easy knowing that OUR flesh has grown.

I want you to know that I still use every ounce of knowledge you have given me; that I still roll my clothes as tight as I can when I pack them into a bag, that every time I walk through a park I leave it cleaner than when I came, and that I still judge myself by the scout laws, and feel the worst shame imaginable every time I realize that I have not lived up to them.

And if we get to the pearly gates, and if either of us is not allowed to pass, I would shout at the top of my lungs shamelessly to those who lounged beyond them: that their God was wrong, and that we stand here as men who lived lives as best as men could with but a glimmer of divine purpose, and we will stand pround in that place we end up, knowing we did the best we could. I trust that behind every one of your intentions was the pillar of divine providence and goodness, the universal conscience of our human race that one day may unite every man of every creed and color.

Above all I want you to know that in spite of my silence, it weighs upon me every single day of my life that I am your son. Though the voice God has given me is meek, my heart is still the same as yours, and it will seek out every way possible to let itself be known.

I love you, Dad.

Arches National Park

20 Feb

Your body is a national park.

I will look, not touch,

And try not to leave trash behind.

Somebody

7 Aug Brick at Blue Star Arts Complex

Sam wanted to be inside with the others, to talk to and be seen talking to Selene, but he knew he’d just be let down. Selene was one of the first friends he’d made in the downtown scene, and she was still his friend. But the late nights of watching cartoons and weekends eating dinner and playing cards with her family had grown farther between, and now that her music was taking off, now that she was becoming somebody, it seemed like everyone else was rushing to fill his place as her friend. Inside, he imagined her swarmed by a crowd of friends and ‘interested parties’ while the music equipment was breaking down behind her. If he tried to be her best friend in there right now, he’d just be one of a hundred posturing around her, also trying to be her best friend. He opted instead to sit outside, hesitantly sipping the last of his second beer, putting off the inevitable decision to walk away without saying goodbye. It was better this way, walking off without saying goodbye rather than awkwardly trying to seem like he belonged in there. She’ll still be around tomorrow, or the day after.

Good for her though, he thought, she deserves to be someone. She worked hard, and it’s not her fault that her time was not his anymore.

On the sidewalk around him, people who had been inside were milling about, talking to each other in exaggerated body language. Most were dressed well. Dressed carefully, dressed like they were somebody. A girl ten feet away was a good example. She was wore a black skirt that clung to her calves through the wind matched with black heels, talking to two boys who were dressed as chic boys dress with chic haircuts, the kind that mimicked the fashion of the impoverished, the revolving culture appropriated from people who couldn’t afford to wear better things than plain, weathered tees and cutoff jean shorts, loved so well by middle class twenty-somethings that lived off of their student loan money, either waiting or surfing the scene until they became somebody. He could tell by the tones of the words he didn’t hear that she was talking like she was somebody. He had a confident clairvoyance to what she was saying; oh, you know her, I know that person to, we did this and that together, I hear someone’s doing something sometime.

Sam caught the bitterness creeping back into his thoughts. He reminded himself that sometimes he did the same things this girl did. Sometimes, he went to the bar openings, the big shows like this one, the weekend flings where he knew other somebodies would be, places where he could be seen and heard, where someone might mistake him for a somebody.

Deep down, Sam wanted to be somebody too, and that’s why the bitterness lived in his marrow, sometimes bleeding into his veins when he saw others. A little voice in his head had always told him he would be somebody, and all these little clues surfaced just often enough in his life to keep him believing it was true. Twenty-eight years later, he was still hopping along from clue to clue, while in between each stepping-clue he waited tables, convincing himself that he was somebody as a good waiter in the best restaurant in the city, and he could tell everybody that he waited on this somebody or caught sight of that somebody at work, and when he told strangers about the big someplace they worked, they would say, oh I’ve heard of that place, I’ve heard it’s great, and that would make him feel good about himself.

Maybe if he’d stuck it out playing guitar instead of occasionally looking at the Telecaster knock-off leaning against the wall by his television, he’d be just like Selene, or maybe somewhere close. Maybe he could be playing with her. It’s far too late for that though, he thought, wiping the smell of the nameless girl’s cigarette from his nose. He’d never catch up to Selene, nor could even hope to be somewhat talented before a respectable age at this point.

He looked around. More people were filing out and lighting cigarettes and talking. None of them looked at him. He felt small and unrecognizable, though with the time and talking and money spent on buying shots and beer and drugs for the people in this town, he thought he deserved at least a nod from somebody here. But here they were, twenty-something twenty-somethings around him on the cafe patio who were desperately engrossed in becoming somebody, and beyond them for thousands of miles in every direction were eight billion other people doing the exact same. Eight billion people wanting to be somebody, like him, like Selene. A weight of peaceful hopelessness settled on him through the gentle waves of his two-beer day-drunk. He took the last, warm, malty sip, set down the can on a table and looked at it until he got the inspiration to walk away and back to his apartment. It was better this way.

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