I used to be such a good boy. Making promises to my mother about keeping all my senses away from trouble. Every sight, sound, smell, flavor and texture was a blessing from God. Back when tattooed men were frightening and loud talking women made me angry. When skunks didn’t remind me of smoking and mint was just for candy. When a quarter was more valuable in my piggy bank than in my pocket. Back in the days when guns were made of plastic, bullets out of foam and soda was not a mixer. Back when I only had one face. Now here I am on the other side of the coin. And having seen both ends I know that you need both sides to buy a soda.
You get so up in your head that you want to flash back to your BMX with the two pegs to ride down the street and back as fast as you can.
Weeks go by. Years go by.
You get so far into your projections. You want to change.
Years go by. Decades go by.
You see your family the same but they’ve all changed but they haven’t stayed the same. You make the same mistakes but with bigger consequences. All around you the t-shirts change, the science changes, sensitivity changes but it’s all still the same.
The body ages but the mind grows chaotic: A frantic camper in the rain racing to drive down stakes into mud. Stuck to stories growing mold, fuzzy but always staying the same.
The sandman doesn’t sprinkle you with dust. St. Nick can’t give you what you want. Christ could be relatable if only he’d made mistakes. You bought the world’s spirits, elixirs and potions but snake oils only erase time for nothing in return. The tooth fairy took all your teeth but I think she also has your innocence, and you never saw a dime.
Too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the soup. Too many voices in your head spoil the creativity. You can spend time but you can never buy it.
The only option is to drive down stakes into moments you never want to let slip.
A short story incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.
by Marcus Jonathan Chapman
I haven’t the faintest idea how much I have drunk. I can see what’s left in the bottles and count the beers but those are no indicator as to the capacity or volume of liquid. At least not with my vision in the state it’s in. Perhaps an analysis of my personal ability to consume would be helpful if not at the very least interesting.
My ability to function with certain amounts of H20 and alcohol sometimes astonishes me. Bottles and cans shiver, empty next to the trash can, their use outlived, their spirits transferred into my being. I know that I am able to keep their contents long in the memory of my gut. My guts retention is amazing. A true American in all its glutenous, consumptive old glory.
Like those bottles and cans waiting to be tossed, I too shiver at the thought of needing more. A deep valley, is my body, slowly filling with the trickle of some Joshua tree property hose.
Yet, I still bob my head to the music, play with the dogs, wash the dishes, respond to endless streams of asinine emails and rub out those liquid pearls. What is a man to do with is time, his animal instincts and his intellect? To eat, to masturbate, to read, write and paint. That is how time is measured; in tasks, ideas, grunts and the reckonings of shame and regret.
Some of us take up our kitchen knives and create memories for our bellies. Some of us take up our kitchen knives and create outlets for pain. So much pain. What do we do with this pain? I don’t know, refer to how I spend my time.
The optimist believes in something greater, always better, a rising sun. The pessimist believes in nothing, see’s everything, the rising of the sun, its heat, its cancer, its vitamin D and its setting. The pessimist sees what is and optimist sees what could be. No one is only one of those things. It’s impossible to board an airplane and never think of its crashing.
A short story incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.
by Marcus Jonathan Chapman
I don’t know the type of monster I became that night. Wandering the streets and alley ways looking for a fight. A wrong look, a look for too long or the wrong note played on a piano would be enough to begin growling and pawing at the dirt.
It happened that a male chauvinist made himself known to me. Saul, who was just a man for the evening, told me it was a creature of the worst kind. A rapist. That the chauvinist had at one time in his youth taken advantage of a woman.
After being confronted by a man with fight but no reason to do so, my adrenaline was pumping. So when I finally had a reason, the fight came with it. My hands became anvils, my arms pistons and my legs stanchions for the movement of my upper torso.
The creature in front of me was well groomed, the worst kind of monster, with manners. A hannibal lecter, harvey weinstein or jeffrey epstein. In front of me, yet another male adult too scared to face life like a man and so they became beasts wildly using the worst of their nature to feast.
By the time Saul had revealed the man’s nature, it was too late, but the fight was still with me. And so I became a monster, looking for someone to fight, winning or losing were not the point, it was simply about the fight.
There is a cliché that goes something like, you become the very thing you hate. I imagine that goes along with being vigilant of ones mind and guarding against it. I was not vigilant and so only the fight took over.
Swiss on rye with pickles. That’s that I ordered. What the deli worker gave me 25 minutes later was ham with mustard, mayo and a single piece of lettuce.
Fuck it. I was starving, but I looked at the price and saw it was the same amount, so again, fuck it.
Then I checked out the dollar store to see if they had any Maruchan soup for 29 cents a package. I could live for month on those for about 20 dollars.
On to the rite-aid for some ice cream, a scoop with a cone for a dollar a some-odd cents. A pretty good day. I felt like I had lived like a king.
On my bike ride home, I passed a house with a row of roses. I stopped and leaned over to stick my nose in the red petals. You know that old saying, I don’t remember how it goes but it meant something like taking time to appreciate life or the small things. Something like that.
Starting to pedal the bike again, my legs felt heavy. Probably due to the ham and the rocky road digesting in my body. Most likely not the preferred diet of Lance Armstrong, but then again, I also wasn’t on steroids. These thighs were all natural.
I got home and locked up the bike. Walked into my dark apartment, making my way by memory to the lamp in the corner of my room. I pulled the chain and a plastic stocking-ed leg lit up. Above the leg, a red lamp shade. You know, from that one Christmas movie with the kid that gets his tongue stuck to a frozen pole on a dare. It was a movie about Christmas, I can remember the title.
I turned on some Seinfeld and filled up a cup with ice. Then poured myself a glass of vermouth. I drank in bed until I passed out. The last thing I remembered thinking was, don’t forget to smell the roses. Well, that day, I had.
Bob looked down at the floor. The shoes
around him were new and pregnant with the identities of the partiers around
him. His own shoes had no slashes or colors or stripes or patterns or loud
brand names, only thick black soles and two Velcro straps creased perfectly around
He looked up at the faces of the other
guests. Nodding, smiling, winking, head-tilting, lip-biting, red cup sipping,
arm touching, eye fluttering, eye fucking, and jealousy. Bob noticed it all in
those faces. He took a deep breath and downed the rest of his drink. What was
he doing there?
Looking around at all the tight-skinned
faces, he was beginning to think he had overstayed his welcome. Nobody at the
party would catch him slipping out the back. They were all too busy looking up
at the sky. Bob had been that way once. Always staring at the clouds, scheming
and dreaming. Dreaming of changing the world. The clouds looked the same. Never
closer but never further away. He thought about all the things other people had
achieved and perfected in his lifetime. The automobile. Telephones. T.V.s. Computers.
The internet (apparently people spent all their time in the web, it sounded
like a trap to him.) Faster food, faster service, faster payments, more nudity,
less danger and sensationalized news. Working, making and consuming
distractions. Everything was strange entertainment.
If he had slept for 50 years and woken up on
this same day, he would be just as confused, disoriented and unsatisfied. To be
honest, he felt cheated. All those promises and hopes for the future yielded
nothing but more ignorance and more dependence. Hell, he remembered when a car
would still start if you had enough people to push it.
Bob startled himself. He looked around.
Nobody spared a glance. The two kids he had met at the bar were now schmoozing
at a couple of young ladies across the room. The girls were cute, sure, but
they looked as if they would giggle at the news of their parents’ death. For
that matter, so did the boys he came with.
He had met them at a bar when they started
philosophizing with him. They bought his drinks, so he played along.
“What do you think about
There was no such thing as a free drink. He
blew out all his air, pushing out his lips.
“I’ve been asked that same
exact question my whole life, just a different name at the end. Bush, Reagan,
Roosevelt, Truman, Bush. The question is old. The name changes, the face
changes, they die, soon I’ll be dead and something similarly different will
The two kids were impressed. Or at least
impressionable. They invited Bob to the party, and he went. Maybe it was the
free drinks, but Bob remembered when he was like them. He would have believed
anything that came out of an old drunks’ mouth. He would have thought ‘boy,
this guy’s been through the ringer, he must really know something.’ Now Bob was
that old drunk and he knew that nobody knows and that’s the truth. Some are
optimistic and others pessimistic. Some believe in god and others don’t. Some
pretend and some don’t. Just having a mind is too much. Or maybe it’s not. Only
a few wrinkles, a drowning liver and a bald head separated Bob from those boys.
Bob set down his cup and made his way over to
them. He stepped up behind the two Romeos and clapped them on the shoulders.
“You boys need anything?”
They looked at each other and looked back at
the girls with wide eyes. Bob was a malignant tumor to them now.
“I’ll be right back.” He said.
Bob walked off through the crowd and out the door. He looked up at the night sky. No clouds and not a visible star. That was another change. Edison eventually did away with staring up at the stars, now he looks out the window and sees the glow of television sets from every house, apartment, and trailer. He got in his car and lit a cigarette. He had only agreed to come because the party was a couple blocks from his house. The ignition turned over and the gas pedal felt like a pole in a tar pit. He pressed his foot down and the rest was mechanical: Left, stop, go, stop, go, right. Four houses down Bob slipped into the garage and closed it behind him. He put the car in park and cranked back the emergency brake. The window popped out of its crease as he pressed the button down. Leaning back in the driver’s seat, he dragged slowly from his cigarette before dropping it out of the cracked window. He pumped the gas pedal, revving the engine a couple of times. Then held it down at a low RPM, going nowhere. He closed his eyes. Maybe tomorrow or maybe nothing.
Looking up at the stars, Henry got the impression of being in a box. Like breathing holes in cardboard, the little pokes of light taunted him. Later that morning, when the sun covered up the sky, he would be at a meeting of his entire company. At some point, he would be asked to present the progress of his project: a review of competitors and their presence in the marketplace compared to the company for which he worked.
More than the presentation he had to give, Henry dreaded the party that would come after. A forced affair in which those at the top would goad those under them to drink. Those in the middle, feeling the tension of normal workplace decor become loosened, would oblige. Those who left were usually not at the company the next month.
Thinking about these things, he wondered what his thoughts about the stars being breathing holes had to do with anything at his job. Perhaps he felt trapped, but that seemed obvious, something that his star analogy didn’t need to explain. Perhaps he was wondering if he had reached his peak. The highest level of success in the workplace of which he was capable, and from that level you could see the light poking through the holes in the whole thing.
Henry snuffed out his cigarette in the little square patch of dirt in his backyard and went inside. He patted his cat on the head and got ready for the day, laying out his suit and tie before showering.
Henry groaned as he got out of bed. His back popping and snapping as he stretched. It was still dark out. He grabbed a cigarette from the night stand and went to his back patio. The dew from the grass and the absence of sun sent a cold shiver through his body.
Ever since retiring, Henry had woken up before dawn with no alarm. As a young man he’d imagined all of the creative projects on which he would have time to work. Lighting his cigarette, he thought about all the energy of youth he had spent on getting to this point and now, with all the time in the world, he found his energy depleted.
Looking up at the stars, Henry got the impression of being in a box. Like breathing holes in cardboard, the little pokes of light taunted him.
At the end of your life you are shown to a theater and given an accounting of all your stats. It isn’t some thundering proclamation from a white haired god. No, by the end of the presentation, most people find themselves bored to death. That is exactly the point.
In the beginning it can be quite interesting. You’re offered coffee, tea or water and shown to a small couch. In front of you is a man on suspenders poised to turn over a large paper flip chart. There is no preamble he gets right into it.
“These are your statistics,” he says.
“Boogers! had you saved all of them up you’d have a gigantic mound of mucus about the size of an elephant.”
(By the way in this scenario you’re 81 years old.)
“Instead you’ve picked, flicked and blew all your not into garbages, toilets, streets, and cars.”
He goes on very similarly about the earwax, except its about the size of an SUV, which you think is roughly the size of an elephant and he’s just trying to keep his comparisons interesting.
“Hair! You’ve lost 37,564 hairs from the top of your head BUT you gained 63 hairs in and around your left ear and 59 hairs in and around your right. You had an increase in your nose hairs, both in number of individual follicles as well as girth of each hair.”
It did surprise me that the terms were not more scientific but then again he may be using language I can understand.
“Your has distended 3.73 inches!”
“Fingernails! If gone uncut and unbroken they would now be 53 yards, 2 feet, 4 inches and 7millimeters long.”
Eventually you tune out. The stats become more absurd and then suspenders opens a dusty book and things get interesting again.
“I will now read your language stats!”
“Fuck you’s! 759,000 even. Impressive!”
You think it could be more.
“Fuck offs! 33,542”
“Son of a bitch!…”
It continues like this for a while and eventually you just sort of die like I said earlier, of boredom. Fuck.
The first thing I noticed when I met her was the Daffy duck tattoo on her calf. She was wearing a mustard colored t-shirt and black jeans with black timberland boots. I walked up to her at the bar and said somtheing stupid.
“Suffering succotash!” She looked at me with a grin that I eventually discovered was her attempt at holding back a laugh, because then she laughed.
I tried to keep going, using Daffy’s speech.
“Whath are you drinking?”
Then she answered back in Daffy’s voice, “Theven and Theven.” She said.
I didn’t expect that either, how quickly we could get on the same page.
It carried on like that for five years. Parties, concerts, trips, moving in together, family gatherings, movies, books, tv shows; all the funner things in life.
Now I’m sitting here, trying to comprehend why she’s crying on the bed and me, the constant stoic, can’t seem to muster anything up but tearful words.
Maybe we had forgotten the other side of life, the parts that aren’t fun. The parts where I drink too much, maybe she’s a little too flirty, maybe I look for too long when we go out, the constant barrage of comments from strangers and familiars about her weight (no matter what it is).
Maybe we never addressed those things, paid enough attention to those so we didn’t find ourselves here, dealing with a life we built while not being able to take a break from reality (work, bills, pets, prior engagements; those other things of life).
How do we get back to being on the same page? That’s what we keep asking ourselves.
Now she’s packing a bag, headed to a friends house while we “work on things.” It’s normal, it’s valid and maybe even healthy, but honestly, it doesn’t feel right.
Can’t there be a place on earth where nonsense is the only thing that makes sense? A wonderland where we live and anyone looking in feels like Alice looking through the glass.
Right now, we’re in quicksand. The more we force things, the faster we sink.
It seems time is the only rope to pull us out of this. Just like five years went by in the span of a laugh, maybe this will go by in the span of a cry.
That’s scary because a cry feels a lot longer than a laugh, especially when I can still hear it’s echoes reverberating off the walls of our life.
All I can think about now is her coming back home and me opening the door and greeting her with an exaggerated “suffering succotash” just so I can hear her laugh.