Monday, 28 March 2011



    As John put on his raincoat he felt overcome with a sense of deja vu. A sense that he had worn the same outfit on a similarly gray day; a sense that he had checked his watch with the same mindless deliberation; a sense that he had eaten his eggs and toast with the same pace, the same groggy body ache, the same morning thoughts. He felt — crazily, it seemed to him — orchestrated in a way by something greater than routine, but he could not say what.

    That day he met with Sarah at their usual cafe. They met to continue a long-established tradition the origins of which neither could recall. They spoke the same lines about their day, voiced the same complaints, doled out the same compliments. Sarah looked lovely; John, he wore a nice tie. John admired her indifferently and vaguely. He remembered maybe once falling in love with her but their meetings now were a matter of established ritual.

    They spent most of their meetings watching other people. Sometimes they appeared to engage with one another for the benefit of other people-watchers, but mostly they watched in silence. John noticed the same man in a blue blazer etching the same course along 3rd Street as the man had done before, and could not help but feel he had just yesterday seen the same woman in a niqāb who was now, like then, entering the post office.

    Thirty minutes into their meeting, after numerous starts and stops in conversation, John and Sarah heard a loud explosion. Everyone on the street stopped in their tracks and looked. A great shadow fell upon the city blocks. Some massive something lurched towards them. A woman screamed and people began to scamper as if they had some thought-out place to shelter. John looked at Sarah and said “I love you” as a matter of course. He knew something grim would happen to them and supposed they had been overtaken all along. So they continued talking out of habit, their words coming without thought, falling out with the buildings collapsing like so many dominoes.

Monday, 21 March 2011

The Weekend Girl Cloud

The Weekend Girl Cloud
[for Geneva]

The weekend girl cloud blinks across the pink sky to deposit cartoonily exaggerated rain drops, blue with a badge of reflective iridescence, on the land below. The candy children, in button up dresses made of animator cells, stitched with cheesy cliche dreams about flying, about showing up naked in class, and about lost loved ones, celebrate to their venerated revenant above. The grass, of course, is sheened like green butterscotch suckers. All is glassy glee in the land rained upon by the weekend girl cloud.

This is the usual scene.

The problem with the weekend girl cloud, so worshiped by so many, is that she harbors the wet spirits of all my fantasy crushes. I should say, that's my problematic relationship with the weekend girl cloud. I am reassured by the automaton mechanicals that I will outgrow my pubescent ideas and one day stick to earthly pleasures. Obviously, they have never been a 17 year old boy.

On this particular weekend I wait upon the hillside for the sky to smear across its palette. Then in comes the girl cloud. She sparkles Powerpuff style. Her rain bubbles down, intermixing the colors and the forces that mold them. A chorus of candy children hobble under her shadow, arms skyward, feet springing them off the green crystal grass. They offer to make a Skittles sacrifice. The weekend girl cloud beams and rains down to heal their cheeks and crops.

I get jealous. I run out into the field, painted poppies tumbling up into the air behind me, and I shout: "Weekend girl cloud! I bring you more than these petty worshipers can offer. I bring you love!" I crash through the chorus of candy children and unpeel my shirt, fall to my knees, and sing an eternal love song.

The weekend girl cloud has an eye for sincerity and hoists me up. I am lifted by little winglets of rainwater. I am misted into her folds and greeted by my heavenly hosts. They are more transparent and spooky than I anticipated. They pilot a bright vessel but they are like dull candles. I say to them, "Hi, I am in love with you." That is the most creative I can be at 6000 feet in the air.

They all speak in unison in the most thunderous whisper: "WE LOVE YOU MORE."

With that, I am ejected on a tornado's twirl. I spiral to the ground flecked with dewey love. I land and look around at the bewildered candy children. I grab the nearest kid, a pigtailed girl with countless freckles. "I have tasted divine love and it is beautiful," I say. "I have never felt more adored. You crave the rains, but I — I have felt the cloud's real power."

The girl grabs me back by the shoulders. She pierces me with very wide eyes. "We have all been inside. Each and every one of us. We aren't a cult, mister. We are bunch of lovesick individuals each pleading his or her pain. And I know in my heart the cloud girls love me more than all others. So get on your knees and beg, mister. She's only taking one of us."

My eyes widen. I let go of my revelator. I look up and start yelling upwards like the rest of them. I have been yelling ever since.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

She Pulls the Strings

She Pulls the Strings

Mr. Hartford Bickley gazed upon the geese and grouse in his yard; his wife, Elinor, meanwhile, only saw these foul through an obstructing window pane. So went their summer days: the artful conversationalist surveying his property with his friend Walter in tow, his quiet wifely companion, removed and afar. The two only united upon the husband’s return when he, fresh from a hunt, would demand food and drink, and she would oblige, alone in the kitchen with sorrow as her only true companion, sorrow for a marriage that once held so much promise, sorrow for the vacancies and recognized barriers between man and wife.
Until one day, when, having tired of contemplating the mocking greenery beyond the household walls, Elinor retired to her husband’s vast library, where she found, curiously tucked into one volume, a long, thin, black string, spooling from the pages. She opened the book to where this string was threaded and found there its termination; the rest of the string trailed to floor, to shelf, then seemingly to ceiling, then yet beyond, further up, threaded through the skylight and to the roof of the estate house. Like a cat she toyed with the string —  a few tugs —  and then left the mystery to rest.
That evening, her husband returned bruised and distraught. He spoke of a phantom force tugging upon his neck, as if he were ensnared by a noose. He was dragged, he said, by an unseen instigator, thrown this way and that under a ghostly chokehold. Elinor, recalling the string, understood her newfound power, yet kept quiet, choosing instead to dissuade her husband from indulging superstitions. “There are occasions when our bodies seem to work contrary to our minds, and may give us the most misleading signals, the most inscrutable urges, that neither you nor I nor any physician can accurately account for; we must accept these short bursts of instability as one of the inconveniences of being alive,” she said.
And so it went, she feigning the role of unaware wife, he becoming the newly troubled and damaged husband. No longer could he stroll through his estate without the occasional ensnarement; no longer could he circle the pond without fear of being yanked round its perimeter, as if made the sole competitor in a perverse hippodrome. In short time, the fearful man sheltered in the estate and took to more productive hobbies, cooking and general upkeep, out of suspicion his idleness had inspired some godly wrath; while good Elinor, ever the quiet one, continued to pluck gently at the string as needed, the silent looser of unseen knots, the tinkerer of worldly rules.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Sayings (The Movie)

"A Bird in the Hand is Worth Two in the Bush"
Uplifting CGI kids flick about a pair of bluebirds who fall in love amidst competing interests only to realize the one you have is worth at least twice more than the one you don't have. They cherish each other's company in the hand of a nearby birdwatcher. (PG)

"Genius is One Percent Inspiration and 99 Percent Perspiration"
The untold story of Albert Einsten's hyerhidrosis. Documentary. (NR)

"Jump On The Bandwagon"
Moralizing western action piece about one outsider's life-or-death decision between saving a hurtling cart of judgmental villagers or preserving his own self-worth as they plummet to their dooms. With a rockabilly soundtrack from Lee Hazard and the Damned Branch Band. (R)

"Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder"
Confrontational indie drama about two college students who fall in love only to realize their attraction would benefit from the pains of absence, and deliberately study abroad at the same time to ensure mutual infatuation and devastation. They vow to stay true, simultaneously swelling and wrecking their poor young hearts. (PG-13)

"The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword"
Hilarious sendup of the unlikely friendship between a journalist and a professional fencer, who meet upon a sinking cruise ship. (PG-13)

"The Early Bird Catches the Worm"
Horror film about a man who is always on time — to die. (R)

"That's All, Folks!"
.003 second art flick that ends prior to audience seating. (NR)

Monday, 7 March 2011

The Lonely People Are Getting Lonelier

The Lonely People Are Getting Lonelier

Eliot scrolls down the Craiglist personals looking for instant company. Each ad reads as an index of lonely fantasies,  open invites closed in a system: men seek real men, men seek straight men, tops seek bottoms seek tops, dads seek sons. They don't know Eliot, but maybe they seek him, too.

Few reply.

Eliot finds a match and drives, heart convulsing, into the empty dark. He is 17, maybe the best thing going for him. His parents don't know where he is, but then, they never do.

He meets his man at his front door, a red-faced and softly featured Santa. "Come in," he says, already putting an arm around his new companion.

The two dwell uncertainly in the man's bedroom, until Eliot asks, "What do you want me to do?" 

"You can take off your clothes now," the man says, and Eliot obliges, and goes to the bed, and feels bony and cold.

The man does his thing and Eliot stares at the ceiling. After a while the pudgy guy finishes, and nestles his hairy and stunted body against Eliot's. He kisses his boy on the lips. "Have you done this before? You're more comfortable than most guys. A lot of inexperienced guys tense up, they won't kiss." Eliot doesn't reply.

The man ushers his encounter out of his house and says he will call soon. Eliot nods and drives home.

On his way Eliot looks at the passing city cut into a glowing grid. He wonders how it's possible to feel so alone in such a big city and thinks about all the other people calling out into the dark. He thinks of all the collisions between people craving contact, and thinking of all this, he only feels lonelier.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Scenes in the Life of Rupert Gills, Born with the Head of a Fish

Scenes in the Life of Rupert Gills, Born with the Head of a Fish

One windy morning, Fiona Gills walks on the beach when she sees an unusual creature tumbling in the surf. She walks close to the thing and is greeted by the strangest sight: a baby boy with the head of a fish. The baby moves with the confused inarticulations of a natural accident, at times flopping and at times seeming to crawl. Fiona looks for passersby on the beach, then sweeps the fishchild up in her shawl and goes on her way. 
"I will call you Rupert," she says.

Little Rupert Gills excels in swim class. Outfitted with floaties like the rest of the kids, Rupert soon proves his aquatic aptitude, snaking through the water as the other kids kick at the surface. He stays under for impressively long durations, to the terror of a few young lifeguards, who pull Rupert out several times. "Oh, he just does that," his mother Fiona says to the concerned staff. "He has gills and human lungs, you see, and can breathe well in and out of pool." She continues his enrollment because he likes the water.

Pete Ganz and Patrick Magnuson can barely hold their giggles in as they slip a fish hook into the PB&J. "Quick," Pete says, "he's coming." 
Into the cafeteria walks the freakish Rupert Gills, who won't stop looking weird no matter how many conditionings and tolerance talks the teachers give. 
"Hey Rupe!" Patrick calls to the fish. "Here, I made this for you."
He carries the sandwich to Rupert while Pete hides behind with fishing line in hand. Rupert, surprised, takes the sandwich and starts to feast. Pete waits for the right bite then tugs on the line, jerking Rupert from the jaw.
The two bullies cackle until Rupert very shortly begins to make horrible choking noises, gagging on blood no doubt, and what seemed like an innocent prank to the two sixth graders turns into this really miserable ordeal for everyone involved. The school nurse intervenes, then the principle, and Pete and Patrick are never seen again at River View Elementary.
Rupert, meanwhile, learns to take advantage of having an eye on each side of his head. Bullies stop attempting to approach him from behind. He may be feeble, they learn, but he can see you.

Rupert does not have to, actually. 

Rupert decides to join a frat as a freshman at UCLA. He rushes for Sigma Alpha Epsilon and, like everyone, is hazed. The dudes pull out their usual assortment of embarrassing initiations, blindfolds and absurd alcoholic consumption and so on, and are amazed to see just how well Rupert can endure the usually devastating water hazing. He can drink and drink and drink water and never let up.
So Rupert becomes a minor celebrity at SAE and is seen at all the big frat parties. People find him endearing. When he drinks too much beer he does that gasping thing fish do out of water and people get alarmed, but otherwise the general consensus is that he's pretty chill to have around. 

In his second year at UCLA, a couple of friends set Rupert up on a blind date with a girl named Carla Stump. "You guys'll get along famously," the friends say. They set the two up to eat at Santori Sushi — her favorite.
Rupert arrives first. He gets some weird looks; he ignores them. He doesn't mind eating other fish. 
He sees a chubby girl dressed very nicely sitting solo, walks up to her, and asks: "Carla?"
Carla's eyes widen. "Is this some kind of sick joke?!" She rises from her seat and shrieks to the sushi chefs. "What kind of sick fucks would do this to me?!" Her eyes are pearled with tears. 
"Carla, wait —" Rupert, not knowing what to do, grabs her and goes in for a kiss. 
She vomits all over his suit.
"Leave me alone," she manages, and storms out the restaurant.
Rupert later learns that Carla has been set up on numerous nightmare dates like this. He begins to wonder what his friends really think of him.

Rupert, 26, goes to the beach the afternoon after Fiona Gills' funeral. Tears drip from his scales. This is where she found him, she told him towards the end of her life, but though Rupert did not actually come from his mother, this did not make her love him any less. 
Rupert, on the shore, feels he belongs neither on the land nor the ocean ahead. All he feels is the incredible throb of longing for the home he lost.

Rupert sits at the bus stop. He works now for Sierra Fisheries. Somehow — he could not say exactly how — he knew where all the commercial fish schooled, and has proven to be a valuable resource for the company. 
A woman sits next to him. She has a head of tentacles, big black eyes, and speaks from a beak. "Excuse me," she says. "I'm new here. Will the 319 take me to the harbor?"
"Yes it will," Rupert says. "That's where I'm headed."
"Wonderful," she says.
So finally, at 35, Rupert's life starts to make a little more sense.