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{Saturday, May 31, 2003}

Ring of Fire.

by jal 9:03 AM

{Friday, May 30, 2003}


And that's when it started to get ugly. Charlie got up and started yelling at Paul. "What do you mean, 'Well, I guess we're stuck then.'? That simply isn't an acceptable answer." She stamped her foot petulanty, but wild murderous fear danced behind her eyes. Even then, I could see how she was fitting Paul's idealized vision of her instead of being what she really was. Still, the essential core of her remained.

"What I'm saying is that - with the I.V. drip in my arm - I'm not waking up any time soon. If I don't wake up, then the dream doesn't end." He was slipping into his lecture hall voice. That attitude wouldn't fly the way tensions were riding. "If the dream doesn't end, and you didn't bring yourselves here, then you're stuck here until the thing that brought you here decides to take you back again."

I glanced over that Charlie and Laura. They were both just this close to losing it. I closed my eyes and uttered a short prayer. Just don't cap it off with a, 'See.' Don't use that word, and I can still salvage the situation.

Paul rested his hands on his hips. "See?"

Crap. I shook my head sadly. Charlie and Laura totally lost it. They started yelling, screaming, tearing up clods of dirt, and pelting Paul with them.

"Sure, blame the guy who's a figment of his own imagination!" Paul's voice cracked. "This isn't my fault. I didn't bring you here. I don't even understand what's going on." He curled up and sobbed, hiding from their onslaught. "It's not like you've been kidnapped, taken who-knows-where, and forced into a coma. At least you know where your bodies are. Who knows? When they're done starving me to death, and my dream ends, maybe y'all'll just wake up and I'll be the only dead one." The psycho twins stopped their attack and thought about this. "Yeah, I thought you'd like that." Paul spat at their feet. "Bitches," he muttered.

by jal 11:52 PM

Sure, blame the guy who's a figment of his own imagination.

Following the trip to the coffeehouse Carter was becoming increasingly concerned with the lack of his own existence. Not in the Matrix-we’re-just-living-in-an-illusion-sort-of-way but more of a concern with the whole idea of a reality subject to the will power of the participant. What if he accidentally willed himself out of existence?

It reminded him of the old joke: Descartes was on a plane when the stewardess asked him, “Coffee, tea, cigarette?” He replied, “No, I think not.” And disappeared. What if his continued existence hinged on his own awareness and subconscious concentration on his own being? What if he were to drink too much, blackout and cease to be? Was this possible?

And what about others? Did his responsibility of imagining the world extend to others as well? What if he forgot about an old friend from collage and because of him they simply vanished?

Ok, at this point he realized he was plumbing new depths of paranoia. Still, the Morrison-type person seemed pretty damn serious when describing the nature of reality. Was there something to it? Not that he typically listened to strange men in black rooms in coffeehouses but you never know. He decided to test it. But how? Could he step into traffic and will a bus to stop moments before turning him into a statistic? No, too risky.

Carter Lucas went back to his townhouse to think on this.

by Shawn 9:22 PM

A consensual delusion
is still a delusion,
no matter how comforting
and tactile the illusion.
To confront the suffusion
of lies and confusion
is to counter the fusion
of religion and truth.
But to truly awaken
is to leave the forsaken,
dismiss from your mind
the cheated, the taken,
and steal what they make in
the course of their faking,
bringing the bacon,
home to the slaughter.
Which has lost touch
with its humanity such
that "They are not Us
and don't matter much"
is a viable crutch
to which it can clutch
for escapes that are dutch:
the resistance or the machines?

by Sharon 4:09 PM

Sure, blame the guy who's a figment of his own imagination.

by MisterNihil 11:36 AM

{Thursday, May 29, 2003}

Carter Lucas stared for a moment, certain he had either misheard the barista or that he had in fact been addressing someone else. A quick glance over his shoulder confirmed that no one had walked up behind him and that this rather peculiar message was in deed meant for him. “Um, what?”

“I said, in the back, red door, black box, quarter. You’re expected, don’t worry about it.”

Carter, quarter in hand – given by the barista – cleared his throat, did a mental shuffling of feet and slowly looked towards the back of the room. Sure enough, red door. Feeling more than a little self-conscious he could help think that the entire coffeehouse was about to break out into a session of beat poetry or performance art. Still, he did as instructed.

Door closed he dropped the quarter into the black box. Nothing. Then, slowly, a dim red light came up. For one panicked moment he was afraid that there was going to be disco music, but then, a voice behind him. Carter turned, his eyes adjusting to the light, and there sat a man who looked a little too much like Jim Morrison (the young, sexy Morrison, not the fat mammal Morrison). The room itself now seemed distant in both space and memory leaving Carter unsure if it had ever been there at all.

“It’s good to finally meet you Mr. Carter,” said the Morrison lookalike with a musical-like quality to his voice that reinforced Carter’s concern that the whole thing was ultimately going to be performance art or part of a Doors revival. “It’s fallen to me to explain what’s really going on, so get comfortable and let me tell you about gods and man, of subjective reality and the nature of being.” Carter looked around the room, there were no chairs, nor even a room for that matter, he wasn’t sure what Jim meant by “getting comfortable”.

“There is a god…” Great, he’s wandered into a freakish proselytizing coffeehouse. “I should know, I helped make him. As a Mage you know that all of reality is malleable, subjective and subject to our will and whim resisted only by the dominate paradigm of what the mundane accept as reality. What you don’t know is that 2000 years ago a group of us established that paradigm to bring order to the world. The gods of legend were real then and their whim blasted the earth with powers that jeopardized the existence of all life. Their followers waged wars that spanned the globe. We brought about magics to convince mankind, much of it anyhow, that there was only one god, and, in that reality was subject to the notions of the human mind, the other gods eventually faded. A god without followers, sufficient followers anyhow, is no more. They were drastic measures to be sure, but the alternative was the end of all of mankind and we…”

“Wait, wait a second!”


“Why are you telling me this?”

“Because you’re the failsafe, the reincarnation of the mage once known as Jesus, Mr. Carter.”

“And why do you keep calling me Mr. Carter?”

“Aren’t you Lucas Carter?”

“No, I’m Carter Lucas. Look, I just stopped in for an americano.”

“Um, you didn’t receive a card from a tall woman with white hair?”

“Ah. no.”

“I see. Um, could you please forget everything I just mentioned?”

Carter left the coffeehouse with an americano in hand, a blue berry muffin and a growing feeling of uneasiness.

by Shawn 11:45 PM

Take this quarter.
At the back, there is a red door.
Go through the red door, pull it shut behind you, and put the quarter in the black box.

Don turned from the screen and stared across his bedroom. "That's what it says. So what do I do next?"

Chet glanced up from the book and finished chewing, "Well, the strategy guide says that he's leading you into a trap." He took a sip of Mountain Dew and let that tidbit sink in. "You should go towards the back, but when you round the corner, go to the third table from the left and look under the table. You'll see a bomb under there set to go off in 30 seconds."

Don reached skyward in exasperation. "What the...?"

"Yep." Chet smiled while shrugging. "Pull the red wire out and that'll defuse it. Then you can go in the back room and put the quarter in the box and you'll get your next mission."

"How the heck was I supposed to figure that one out?" Don's face was flushed. Little beads of sweat began to form on his upper lip. "That's so freakin' unfair. It's like they're writing these games to force us to buy the strategy guides." He let the controller drop out of his hand and a pile of empty CheezPuff bags.

"Say, Don?"

"Yeah Chet?"

Chet smirked. "How much did you pay for that game?"

"What're you talking about?" Don quirked an eyebrow at Chet. "You know I don't buy games. I only use warez."

Chet tossed the book aside and folded his arms smugly. "My point exactly."

by jal 8:20 PM

June shrugged. Who was she to gainsay the guidance of a barista? She accepted the quarter from his hand. As she turned towards the back of the coffee shop, in the direction he had airily indicated, she heard the roaring hiss of the espresso machine, preparing the shots for her double soy latte, tall, dry. She didn't expect this to take long.

Pressing the quarter in her palm, June twisted her hips to thread amongst tables and chairs and coffeehouse charm. She ducked beneath a colorful piece of papier mache hanging from the ceiling. Farther than it had looked, she reached the back of the shop, and turned. Lurid red, the door was ajar. She pulled it open, stepped in, and pulled it shut behind her.

She blinked a moment at the black bathroom fixtures in the dim light. The walls were covered in marker: tags, admonishments, calls to action, declarations of affection. Unassuming and unadorned, there was the black box. It featured a simple slot, and careful white lettering--"25 cents"--with an arrow.

She dropped the quarter into the box.

It wasn't so much that the floor dropped away, but that the room fell away, or time. June took her first tentative breaths of infinite nowhere and reflected that the price of oblivion was a steal at two bits, especially considering she'd gotten the quarter for free.

She waited a long while for something to happen. After that, she waited another. It didn't take long for her to dismiss her impatience at letting the latte get cold. It took longer, in that place of gray, even non-being, to dismiss regrets, guilt, and the chorus of self-sabotaging messages she collected about her heels like teething dachshunds. She let go of "You missed your chance." She kissed goodbye to "Fat girls can't do that." She forgot utterly about "You'll look stupid if you try."

She breathed in nothing; she breathed out nothing.

With a whir and a ka-chunk, the quarter fell into the coinbox, and the coffeehouse bathroom reasserted itself. June opened the red door and stepped out into the light. She walked amongst patrons who didn't notice her and picked up her steaming latte from the counter, sipping it carefully.

She left a large tip.

by Sharon 5:12 PM

Take this quarter.
At the back, there is a red door.
Go through the red door, pull it shut behind you, and put the quarter in the black box.

by Sharon 1:12 PM

{Wednesday, May 28, 2003}

I'm what you might call a future philatelist; I collect stamps that haven't been printed yet. There's not a lot of return on my investment -- I'm not supposed to have them, for one thing, and even among a small handful of fellow collectors there's no established criteria yet for estimating their present value -- but it's a hobby I enjoy, and I think it helps make up for some of the general drudgery associated with time travel -- to say nothing of the enormous risks we're often asked to take and the frankly meager wages the Post-Historical Society doles out to its junior research staff. I used to collect other things -- newspapers, photographs, all sorts of odd trinkets -- but security's grown pretty tight in recent years, and stamps have always been fairly easy to conceal, no matter how closely departures and arrivals are monitored for any recognizably futuristic technology. Only a week ago, they arrested a technician for trying to smuggle out an invisibility kit he'd somehow pilfered from 2027, and I think everyone's still reeling from the scandal that rocked the Society last year, when one of the tenured professors claimed to have stolen the idea of time travel itself from the future only to deliver it back to the past before the machine was invented. It's the contemplation of paradoxes like that that'll keep you up at night, quite honestly, and that'll put the entire facility on watch for anyone trying to bring anything through the gate they're not supposed to. Stamps are small and easy, and no one gets hurt, and it's usually fun trying to guess what's going to be on them next. Right now, I'm hoping to collect the entire alien invasion series from two centuries from now -- dating from their arrival on Earth, to the installation of their brain slugs, to the eventual uprising that will drive them off the planet -- but it's difficult when half that planet's a charred cinder and there's only a few post offices left in a few scattered cities. But I suppose half the fun of a hobby like this is the challenge, right?

by Fred 6:06 PM

rocketship underpants

My soon to be eight year old recently moved up a size in underpants. This was particularly significant, because the powers that be in marketing departments have decided that once you reach size 10, you can no longer choose cartoon underpants. The licensing agreements only go up to size eight. This is in child sizes mind you, once you move into adult sizes, there are a wealth of novelty undergarments to choose from. In the store I looked and looked, thinking that maybe they were just sold out. I remember becoming quite sad. I know he would still like to have Spiderman web-slinging across his briefs.

I was struck again at how that most delicious of Victorian inventions, Childhood, is shrinking, while Adolescence seems to grow larger and larger. This trend is reflected in clothing, music, movies and television. At my son’s school there are little girls running around in tight mini-skirts and tee shirts that say things like “Hot Chick”. Now I am not a prude, and I consider myself a liberated thinker, but these girls are 5 and 6 years old. As far as I am concerned they can still pull off fairy-princesses and butterflies.

I also have to admit that my son outgrowing cartoon briefs has left me feeling a little lost. He is still my little boy, but he is growing up up and away from me. He is taking off for parts unknown wearing plain old whitie-tighties, leaving me behind with a drawer full of rocketship underpants

by margaret 9:40 AM

time stamp

by margaret 9:30 AM

{Tuesday, May 27, 2003}


She laid back into the strong hands of the river, made weightless by its steady ebb and flow; weightless, calm, held aloft by an ancient rhythm as old as the world and ever present. Waiting.

The forest whispered to her from the riverbank and spoke secrets held in reserve for those who still listened, secrets of protection and comfort, power and peace. Waiting.

In the distance the mountains sat in their silent majesty watching as the beauty and horrors, the triumphs and failures, the plights and dreams realized of mankind drifted by in but a moment. Waiting.

She laid back trusting her fate to the wisdom of the river as its gentle current lifted her, lowered her, lifted, lowered and eased her down a stream of consciousness leaving behind the dust and the rust of the day. Here, deep within her she knew was the person she was, really was, waiting, waiting.

by Shawn 10:29 PM

Throwing open the door to childhood, he cringed.
Rocketship underpants, glowing moon cubes, deadly poison pidgeon decoder rings spilled out.
He stood, awestruck at the massive waste of time and money.
He put on the underpants, slid the ring on his finger and began to chew the cubes, and flew off for the stars.

by MisterNihil 10:58 AM

When in doubt:

rocketship underpants

by Fred 4:32 AM

{Monday, May 26, 2003}


by margaret 6:54 AM

{Sunday, May 25, 2003}


by Sharon 6:54 AM

{Saturday, May 24, 2003}

Given to Fits of Euphoria

by MisterNihil 10:49 AM

{Friday, May 23, 2003}

"I don't believe it."

by rocketo 2:31 AM

{Thursday, May 22, 2003}

down the street come the tin-foil hats,
the boys with radio waves in their brains.
she can hear them already:
first signal, then noise,
feet like rapid-fire static,
voices calling out
in whispered words:
ones and zeroes, ones and zeroes,
a litany of lost frequencies.
they've been watching the skies;
they want to believe;
but she knows them better than that.
their eyes are glued to shuffling feet,
the lengthening of shadows,
the white noise they cannot see.
short-wave attention spans,
tentacles of doubt or boredom
creep in through the cracks,
interrupt the broadcast,
and here the transmission ends.

by Fred 5:23 PM

I never said I'd always love her. The diseases that ravaged her for the years since I'd known her were growing to be too much. She always claimed she was fine, that the doctors' tests were inconclusive. I don't blame her for being brave, but I think there are things a man can tell about his woman that no one else, not even her - especially not her - can see. I knew, as sure as I knew my own name, that there was something wrong with her. How could there not be?

We tried counseling, we tried workshops. It wasn't that. She was sick, and I couldn't stand to watch her go through with it anymore. Do you think it was wrong that I abandoned my wife at her weakest? Most people do. That's not important. I stood by her for years, as the cancer - the infection - wore away her mind. She pleaded with me sometimes, that we should just go back to the way we were. How could I do that? After everything she'd been through, how could she not just accept the past? How could she tell me that nothing was ever wrong with her? That woman was so far in denial I didn't know what to do. She made friends easily enough, but they were just as cracked as she was. Her sunny disposition was a front. I hated it. She was sick, and she wouldn't cure herself. She said it was all in my head. It is only because of the person that I am that I was able to deal with her at all. But after everything else, I decided I couldn't. I had held my tongue for too long. I asked her to leave.

She refused to leave. It was my house. She was sick, she refused treatment. Honestly, if you must know, I wasn't willing to see her suffer any more. The pain in her eyes was evident, and it hurt too much to see my wife suffer like that. I've read that it's best to "go" in your sleep, so I waited until she was resting peacefully before I slowly fitted the bag over her head. Her eyes fluttered open as I cinched it closed, but soon she was peaceful again. The cancer, the mental illness wouldn't cause her to suffer anymore. We stayed in position for an hour or so, until I knew she was in a better place and it was safe to go.

I turned on the TV again and, after refitting my foil hat, I continued to watch static.

by rocketo 3:12 PM

So I am packing. And then I pack. For a change of pace I pack. Later on I’ll pack some more. Yes I am packing up all of our worldly goods and preparing to move across the country. As it happens, I don’t really mind packing. It is concrete. Results are apparent. It can almost be meditative. Zen. And then something foils me.

There are many odd shaped objects in our lives. But boxes only come in a couple of shapes, mostly rectangular, occasionally square. I had quite a time finding the right box for my husband’s plastic lazy susan pen holder, that he has been carrying around with him since he attended art school a million years ago. Sure it was plastic, and filthy, and cracked here and there, but I could hear his voice saying : “Yeah but it’s still good, I like this one, it spins. What do I need a new pen holder for?” Well now I have an answer for him: “Because I threw it away!” (evil maniacal laugh). That little declaration of independence was a revelation for me. Shawn is not here. I can throw away anything that I want to. I went on a bit of a spree then: threw out his seventeen year old markers, tossed tax records from 1986, pitched the broken plates that he never got around to super-gluing, threw out all the broken small appliances that he’s been storing in the garage for posterity; I was giddy. I had to stop myself from throwing out stuff that I might wish I had in the future.

Of course I could not throw out everything just because it was a pain to pack. Which brings me to husband’s lovely rapier (I could probably get raunchy here, but I will restrain myself, y’all feel comfortable brandishing double entendre in 600+), and his fencing foils. Unusual shapes, long and thin, but much wider at one end then the other. The length was my major problem. Finding a sturdy box to accommodate these items was a real poser. Yeah, yeah, yeah I know I could make my own box. I can make my own cheese too, but I am not inclined to do so. Well I finally solved that little problem and now the sword and foils are packed. Which reminds me, I have just spent 10 minutes writing this. I really should be packing. Maybe tonight, when the kids are tucked in bed, I’ll pack.

by margaret 2:28 PM

FOUSes. We had four of them in our shire. Over six-feet tall, weighing around 150 pounds, when they turned sideways, they disappeared. Exactly the type of person you want to try to poke with a sword. Hmph. Fencers Of Unusual Size, and we were lousy with them.

I met Jed because he lived in my dorm and took the same collegiate fencing class I did, freshman year. Strange, quiet, enigmatic, geeky, but sweet, if you took the time to get to know him. Mind you, it's a lot of time. And did I mention tall?

By sophomore year, we had both joined the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism). With the ability to circle to one side or the other, use my left hand for parries, and poke bean-pole boy in the knee cap, I actually stood half a chance. Once he was "wounded" and on his knees, you had him.

I remember one match, in a squash court in White Building, me versus Jed. (I wish I could remember his SCAdian name. I just know he called me "Wibby," short (and pronounced wrong) for Wibrandis. Dork.) Jed lunged, using all that height to cross, like, the entire court. Matrix-style, I ducked. I just tipped my head back, and watched the blade go by. It was so unlikely, we both blinked a moment. And then, because to bring your opponent into range is to be in-range, yourself, I stabbed him. *doink*

by Sharon 1:12 PM


by margaret 10:45 AM

{Wednesday, May 21, 2003}

Jim closed his teeth around a flap of skin and pulled, ripping into his cuticle. He clamped his other hand over the blood and hid them beneath the table. Appear normal. Normal. He just had to get through this battery of tests and he'd be in.

The woman on the other side of the table (She hadn't given him her name.), with her hair in a severe bun, peered at him over her glasses. She made a note on her clipboard. Jim smiled wanly. "Word associations," she announced.

"Psychos!" Jim blurted.

"We haven't started yet, Mr. Montaine." She made another mark, holding the clipboard angled so that he couldn't see its contents. Her pen was red.


Jim swallowed and scanned her face for cues. Normal, normal, normal. We can do this. Normal. The woman tapped her red, ball-point pen against the top of the clipboard. She shifted. She cleared her throat.

"We've started now, Mr. Montaine."

"Oh! Sorry. Um..."


"Right, battery. Assault."

She blinked a moment, and then made another mark. Jim had a feeling that was the wrong answer. He scanned around the room for help. His eyes fell upon a collection of small items: superball, rubber band, paper-clip chain, 9-volt, wadded-up straw wrapper.

Jim mentally smacked his palm against his forehead. "Or, uh, ha ha, battery." He picked up the 9-volt to demonstrate.

"Mm-hm... Sodomy."

"Eh?" That one startled him. What was the right answer to "sodomy"? Absently, he touched the battery terminals to his tongue, for the metallic thrill of current. It made him jump.

The woman checked a box on her clipboard.

Jim swore. He was never going to get this tech support job.

by Sharon 11:59 PM

There's something about batteries that I like. Their technology seems relatively new, but I find it funny that more than two thousand years before Bush trundled into Baghdad, batteries existed. As a member of Modern American Society, I am obsessed with mobility. Since before man invented chains, he has struggled to break free of them. The harnessing of electricity was a scary thing, certainly. This white light, this firestarter, had scared and infuriated generations past before it was finally corralled into a thin metal lasso. Imagine the wonder that filled the first users of the lightbulb to perpetuate daylight long after the moon took over our skies. Even today its effects are clear. One of the first words I learned was 'Light.' My mom swears I used it with such innocence and wonder that she rethought the value of these electric things we take for granted.

But again, in an effort to free ourselves from the confines of our own creations, we invented flashlights. We invented cars. We invented laptops, the internet, space shuttles, cell phones, all to get away from that which was intended to make our lives more convenient. The tiny battery, our power plants when we untethered ourselves from same, was used to give our hungry appliances the ability to free themselves. These mechanical devices we created, the ones we run from once they are invented, are mobile again. Our uneasy companions have a new reason to follow us. We need them, yes. The battery, our knowledge of chemicals to power their primitive systems, ensures that they will always need us.

by rocketo 2:57 PM


by jal 12:02 PM

{Tuesday, May 20, 2003}

you were, of course, beautiful. throughout the concert, i couldn't help but admire your lean build, your slacker-length hair. i could think about you forever. up on the stage, in the alternating dim and bright lights, you in your small tee shirt, the muscles in your arm flexing with every note. now and then you'd look up from concentration and give us all a smile. give me a smile. i'll admit: at first, i didn't think you were looking at me. there were a lot of people in the crowd, but during my favorite song we locked eyes for what seemed like hours, and i knew we were peering into each other's soul. i felt your breaths pulsate against the microphone as waves of heavy bass rained upon me from the nearby speakers. lucky for us, the drummer, the guitarists didn't notice what we felt. it had been fate that brought us together, fate that made me buy your cd months before without hearing a single song. and now it was fate that thrust me up into the front, even in front of the girls i bet everyone else thought was cute. i bet you didn't even see them. in my room, alone, i had memorized every note you played. the words you sang in backup, in rhythm to the others, glided over my ears. your bass scratched its silky notes here just as it did when i faced the ceiling, my eyes closed in an attempt to latch onto every tone. your set was great; of course it was.

after the show, you found me outside. i was leaned up against my car, smoking as nonchalantly as i could, my fingers betraying hidden nervousness as you approached.

"hey dude," you said, suddenly realizing our connection, "can i bum a cigarette?" of course you could. i lit it for you, sparking the flint as our love ignited, and you breathed us in deeply. and walked away. it was starting to rain now, the only sound left after your deafening show was the tinny of raindrops on chrome. my head began to pound, the sidewalk cracked around me, and you were gone. eventually, i unlocked my car. and drove away.

by rocketo 10:29 PM

Infinitree turned her face up into the rain and tried to feel calmed by it. She shook out her hair, letting the rain fall and fall, then reached up absently to tighten the jacks at the back of her neck.

She turned away from the rain, regarded Alan. Unassuming Helvetica drifted near his head—LANman—labeling him with the screenname in Infinitree's address book. When he turned to break contact with her gaze, the word flitted to stay equidistant from his eyes. Infinitree would have noticed its absence more than its presence; it was just another property of Alan. The object-oriented paradigm was so intuitive.

She tapped a fingernail on one of the chrome plates that replaced her eyes. Alan set his jaw. The habit repulsed him, but it made such a comforting, hollow resonance in her sinuses. She switched the detail on her view to add more Alan.properties under his screenname. The status of his adrenal system troubled her. He wasn't taking this well.

"I just can't read you anymore." He sounded plaintive. He looked at her face, but without the anchor of identifiable eyes, his gaze skidded off, unable to make a connection. Rain dripped from his hair, nose, and chin.

He looked sweet like that, and vulnerable. In that moment, Infinitree loved him again. Quietly: "So upgrade, Lover." He made a brusque movement of disgust and walked off into the gray night. She let the rain fall onto her head, filling the space of impossible tears.

by Sharon 1:10 PM

A bit of stream of consciousness concerning: Raindrops on Chrome

“With your chrome heart shining, in the sun, long may you run”

Neil Young wrote a great song about good friends parting ways back in Blind River in 1962. I don’t know if he ever owned a motorcycle but if not, it seems as though he should.

While I didn’t have this in mind when I posted the topic, something that comes to mind when I think of Raindrops on Chrome is riding motorcycles in Oregon. I grew up with motorcycles and it still feels more natural to be on two wheels than four, even though I don’t currently have a bike. I will again, but there are other priorities at the moment.

My last one was shortened considerably on the back of a flat bed trailer that was parked (illegally I might add) in a traffic lane in Texas. I was thrown clear; my 1000-pound friend of steel, leather and chrome was not so lucky and came to a sudden, crunching end. I was left more-or-less intact and so would’ve bought a new bike right away but realized there was nowhere in Texas I particularly wanted to ride. But I digress.

Oregon. To no one’s surprise: it rains a lot in the northwest. If you ride, you get wet. A lot. It seems a fair trade off. There’s also a certain elegant beauty to wind-blown water droplets streaking back along your windshield, tank and pipes. It’s a very popular subject for airbrush artists.

The bike I had before my big, green friend represents one of the few times in my life I can honestly say I was surprised. Margaret bought it for me for, what, my 31st birthday maybe? Clearly I’m getting old to not remember such things. But, I do remember her handing me the key. I remember my first ride on it and the feel of such calm, obedient power. I remember getting wet. I remember raindrops on chrome.

by Shawn 10:58 AM

Raindrops on chrome

by Shawn 2:34 AM

{Monday, May 19, 2003}

You cannot get enough water, in a small, paper cone. The water jug--tall, blue, resonant--will mock you for your inadequate conveyance. You cannot get enough water to wash the taste out of your mouth, to wash the pills down, to soothe your gag reflex. You will struggle.

I had a nose bleed this morning. Stood in the shower and watched the blood run down my hands and down the drain, directly out of my brain. Took a moment to reflect on the nature of existence.

The pills are large and chalky on purpose, a deliberate abuse from a perverse mind, one final stroke of cruelty to usher you on your way. Without enough water, you will still find a way. You need to.

And here's my train. I will leave you now, on my way to rejoin the world where life is easy and I am competent and people are beautiful. And there is always enough water.

by Sharon 11:59 PM

A paper cup. It was such an innocent thing, quiet and unassuming, of no significance to speak of, except that, it shouldn’t be there. Not lying beside the road. Beyond the simple fact of it being litter, and thus shouldn’t be lying beside any road, it particularly shouldn’t be lying beside this road.

Alex, who more recently referred to himself as Tavadik, reached down and plucked it from the roadside, examined it as if it were the skull of some horrific creature and gazed out towards the horizon. He crumpled the cup and tucked it away inside one of the many pockets of his coat. As destiny has a way of making itself felt, he knew he would find, sooner or later, the person or persons who discarded this cup. What then? He didn’t know. He did however know that, like the cup, they too should not be here. This was his world and he’d gone to great pains to escape the world of paper cups, beer bottles, taxicabs, airplanes, industrial waste, and all of the poisonous run off of human kind that polluted Earth with noise, trash and corruption.

And yet, someone or someones, had somehow managed to find their way to this world. Someone from his homeworld had bridged the gap, or more accurately: pierced the veil that kept separate this world of pristine beauty, alien creatures and otherworldly wonders from that of 21st century Earth. And what did it seem was their contribution to this place? A paper cup.

Tavadik set his sights on the horizon.

by Shawn 7:57 PM

It was a bit of a hike back to the swimming hole. Gerald didn’t mind. The trail went across some volcanic rock, and then descended down into a heavily wooded basin. The pool was fed by spring and in early summer; it was still quite cold from snowmelt. Gerald came often, and had become casually fond o of other regulars. There was the Sporty Family with three rambunctious boys; Orange Guy (he always brought several oranges to share); Hot Hippie Chick, who tried a little too hard and always smelled of patchouli; Juice woman rounded out the cast of regulars.

Gerald wondered if anyone else would be there today. It was chilly for June, and there was a big music festival in town. When he approached the pool he thought he would have the rare pleasure of soaking alone, but then he saw Juice woman sitting in a patch of sun on one of the fallen Cedars. She did not have her dogs today, but she did have her big jar of homemade grape juice and her usual stack of cups (she was always prepared to share this fabulous concoction, which bore little resemblance to the overly sweet store bought variety). Gerald watched her a moment sitting there under her floppy hat, and was struck by how attractive she was. She was no longer young, and had probably never been pretty, but she was lit from within. Gerald wasn’t sure why he had never noticed before.

Just then a cool breeze knocked over the stack of cups, catching one and carrying it up onto the trail. Juice Woman took off after it and chased it toward Gerald. The breeze kept carrying it along and she continued after it. Gerald joined the merry chase, and they got to it at precisely the same time. Laughing they held it triumphantly over their heads. Their fingers toughed, and Gerald felt a charge travel up his arm. Their eyes met. She pulled him to her, and before he knew it they were rutting like wild animals. It was wild passionate. Sexual abandon. When it was over, and they had dazedly thanked one another, Gerald thought to ask her name. She smiled enigmatically and said: “You can call me Dixie.”

by margaret 1:37 PM

a paper cup

by Fred 7:15 AM

{Sunday, May 18, 2003}

alive, in the night

by Sharon 2:04 AM

{Saturday, May 17, 2003}

Sadness has been a houseguest in my home the past week or so. She came uninvited, but she does not impose. She is not my constant companion; rather she surprises me in the bathroom mirror; creeps around the house at 3:30 in the morning. I stumble over her in half-packed boxes and mostly empty books. She has been whispering about poetry, about honoring a memory, and celebrating a gift, an anniversary.

It begins with a brief trickle
Then a spot
Tears and blood
You are gone

This sadness is like dropping a stone into a deep well
Waiting for the splash beneath

I am the stone
And I am the well
And I am the cold water beneath

You were never real to them
They do not mourn

I am alone
In darkness
I do not want to hear that splash

I have carried this pain as long as I would have carried you in my body
Held onto this sorrow because I could not hold you in my arms
Nursed this grief because you will never suckle at my breast

But now I have to let you go.

On May 17, 1999 I miscarried a little boy conceived in late February.
One year later, almost to the day, I conceived a little boy who was then born in late February 2001

by margaret 8:03 AM


by margaret 8:01 AM

{Friday, May 16, 2003}

"I'll never tell, you bastard!" It was a valliant, if feeble attempt to fight off the control he seemed to exude. She soon began to talk. The drugs, after all, were very quick.
"Lord Spiffington sent me to you," she sighed, "because he wanted information."

Hargrove nodded, eager to hear his plans were already going.. as planned. "YesSSss?" he implored, shining the oil lamp in her face again.

"He's planning an operation. There are already three infiltrators in your midsts, reporting back to Lord Spiffington about everything. By now," she laughed, "Lord Spiffington knows when you eat, what time you go to sleep, which late-night talk show you prefer. He even knows that shower only twice a week, and you read the Bridge column first, before the front page."

Hargrove sputtered, and looked around bewilderedly as chuckles peppered the room. He suddenly realized it might have been a bad idea to assemble his entire staff in the room where the interrogations were to take place. He regained composure, and with a flourish, removed the heavy chain mail glove he kept on his left hand. He strolled around the room, sizing up his crew, and proceeded to hit every third member across the face. A smug smile spread across his face when he reached the fifteenth such man. As the man tested his jaw after the wretched blow, Hargrove noticed the pained look across Miss Walcott's face.

"Issss HE one of your agentsssss?" Hargrove smiled evilly, "GUARDSsSS!"

by rocketo 3:15 PM

“Wait a minute Andy. Nurse_NURSE! His oxygen tank is whistling again. She’ll take care of it Andy.

“Call me Rafe, I am trying to get in character.”

Nora smiled indulgently and went back to her notepad trying to find where she had left off before the coughing fit interrupted her dictation. She looked around the isolation ward, Nancy had died last week; George looked bad, he had been on IV antibiotics for three days now and was not getting better. It was just the two of them left in their little mystery fan club. Hours of forced companionship had led to the discovery that they were all mystery fans. They needed something to pass the time and to keep the fear at bay .The four of them had started writing their own “How to Host a Murder” plot. They were going to throw a party when they got out, if they got out.

“So why do we have them playing bridge?

“Lord Spiffington invited everyone to his country house for the weekend, and whats-his-name Major _um_ Tennyson is the rabid bridge champion, and your Miss Walcott is his partner and is secretly there because of the diamond necklace. And your working with the wimpy guy Jeffries, who is really an agent for the intelligence service because he thinks that Spiffington is a Nazi sympathizer”

“Oh yeah and your guy Raphael Hargrove is the Irish cad who is having an affair with the major’s much younger bombshell of a wife. And you are baiting the Major through the bridge thing.”

“Oh and there’s the chambermaid who is really your illegitimate daughter with Lord Spiffington before he married that shrew Olivia, and Lady Spiffington is having an affair with the Major, right?”

Andy was then wracked with a coughing fit so intense that Nora feared he would pass out. It passed, and she gently wiped the bloody spittle from his chin.

“Maybe we should take a break Andy, we can work on this more later. I think we have a pretty good cast of characters; I love your detective concept. So who ends up dead?”

“All of us.”

by margaret 1:42 PM

I thought we could try something different. Here's the beginning of a story. Finish it.

Turning to the left, she coughed and spat out the window. There will be blood in that spit before the scene is over.
"You don't stand a chance, Hargrove."
"That's (hic) where you're wrong, mssSSss Walcott. We'sss already won. We jussss need to know one thing:
Who is Lord Spiffington?

"I'll never tell, you bastard!" It was a valliant, if feeble attempt to fight off the control he sseemed to exude. She soon began to talk.

by MisterNihil 3:28 AM

{Thursday, May 15, 2003}

The other day,
I met another me.
He had a twin,
Who made us three.
"If I am you," he said,
"And so is he,
Then let's let you be me,
And let's just let him be."

by Fred 9:29 PM

It seems like a good idea. It is very compelling on white boards and PowerPoint slides. Drawn out with lines and bars, it appears to be the only sane way to manage a project. It is dizzying but engaging when filtered through a Gantt chart in Microsoft Project. It would be so simple.

It is a terrible idea. Do not be seduced.

Iterative Development. See? It even sounds sexy. The idea is: The developers start coding the features you've got well defined, while you define the next set of features. When they're ready to develop those, you can plan the next batch, and turn the testers loose on the first set. We get results to the customer faster; we're not held up by endless documentation; and we have the opportunity to adjust some features after we learn some things from earlier iterations.

Problem: The Development Lead has to be involved in every phase of a project. Even if they are running in parallel to other phases.

Problem: How do you integrate fixes from iteration 1 into the code currently under development for iteration 3?

Problem: It's so easy to slip a shaky feature from iteration 1 to 3 or 4... And from 2 to 4... And... When do you finish? When does it end?

Problem: I'm the Development Lead.

The middle of combat is not the time to try your new mutant power.

by Sharon 8:37 PM


Depending on whose works you read - whom you talk to - there are parallel worlds to our own. Every instant, any number of different possibilities collapse into the specific waveform that we call our world, while other possible worlds spin off in alternate directions like a sequel-writing screenplay writer gone amok.

Let's rend the veil between worlds and take a peek at what the other alternate Jons are doing right now:

Jon1 is writing this same dialogue on a Dell portable, having taken a job for Dell tech support about two and a half years ago. He's feeling a little nervous about his job 'cause he's afraid that he'll be replaced by five Indian support agents in a few months.

Jon 5 is living in California, just down the street from Mike and Gina Hummel. He never met Sharon and got married. Instead, he got a job at Precedence Publishing just after Mike Hummel did. When they went belly up, he got hired at Top Press Cards along with Mike. Mike and Jon spend the time they're not at work complaining about the state of the industry, role-playing, and pummeling each other in Soul Caliber on the PS2.

Jon 14 is still living in State College, PA. He runs a game store with Dave Burchill, his business partner. He broke up with Cathy years ago, but that wasn't the hardest thing he had to do. Shortly therafter, he cut Steve and Kris from the "under the table" payroll; the store could not support more than two employees and something had to give. The store weathered the CCG bombout, rode the Pokemon craze, rode the d20 craze and bombout, and now it's actually doing quite well. It expanded into the neighboring former cigar store seven months ago and runs regional tournaments on a monthly basis. He enjoys LARPing and glow of the store's neon sign.

Jon 77 is working in a theoretical physics lab. He's just built an Einstien-Tesla-Rosen bridge field tunneler. It lets him view what's going on in the parallel worlds that could have been. He sees me right now and finds this blog entry indescribably funny.

Hmph. Everyone's a critic.

by jal 8:15 PM

     We are fighting.
     I come into work on Thursday.
     I am driving my car; it looks like rain.
     We schedule time with three therapists. She says reading books has never helped, but she is willing to try therapy. I shrug, and we make time.
     I walk to my desk, where two messages are waiting. They are crap, one a wrong number the other something I already knew.
     I pass the city's north limit as the first drops bounce off the top of my car. They ping like bullets. I am listening to something that I hate on the radio, but I turn it up to drown out the real world.
     We talk into the night, not about us or the relationship or anything useful, just talk, fighting a little between, and then talk about whatever comes up. We avoid hateful things and we talk mostly about music. We're planning a future of which we are unsure.
     I check my email at work, and see a new one from a manager. They are changing the code to take the elevator up past the normal retail part of the store. I ask the person next to me why, and he says, "You'll see," and looks distracted and angry. For a second, I can imagine him with a shotgun, saying that over a corpse.
     I am driving the wrong way because I don't want to go where I think I have to. I need to be going either east or west, but I refuse to make a choice right now. I'm heading north into the rainstorm just to hear the water abuse my car.
     We have planned a vacation and a future, and we know where we'll be in six months. It's just tomorrow that's puzzling, and the outcome of that tomorrow and the hundred after it that are in the air. The vacation is planned, inasmuch as I plan vacations, but the reservations are made. She looks sad as we drift off to sleep, too late. We'll be tired tomorrow, but we have a future.
     I ask another person what he thinks, and he says, "I have no idea, but I find it's better not to ask too many questions." I look confused, and another person walks by very quickly and says "Awwww," like you'd say to a kid with dirt in their ice cream. I am puzzled, but I can't worry. I have too much to do.
     The car begins to spin slowly, and I press slowly on the brake to no effect. I see a semi coming the other way on the highway, and cannot look away. The music pounds at me, and the rain tries to break in. I notice, only for a moment, that the sky has turned a gorgeous shade of purple.

by MisterNihil 1:55 PM


i am back. whatever that means.

by rocketo 3:30 AM

{Wednesday, May 14, 2003}

Ricky had never been in this building. He had never been to this part of the city. He ducked into a tractor-trailer for a little shelter and when he awoke, he was in a totally new environment. A lot more grass, and the buildings while old, had a lot more class.

He smelled her perfume before he saw her; an intoxicating scent, he had to see to whom it belonged. She was an exotic beauty, platinum blonde, with extraordinary eyes, a sweet bit of tail if ever he had seen one. She sat at the table, preoccupied with her task. Ricky approached her. “Why don’t you quit going nowhere, and come away with me?” he said in what he thought was his most charming voice blinking his beady eyes at her. She stopped what she was doing for a moment, and spoke to him in an oddly accented voice, cold and almost mechanical: “Why are you talking to me?” “C’mon baby let your instincts take over, I can tell your ready, I can smell it.” She turned her pale eyes toward him “Instincts? What use are instincts to me? I have none.” He realized then that she was right; they were from two different worlds. He rattled her cage a little, but she just when back to running on her wheel.

by margaret 9:48 PM

All the agents and the superhuman crew go out and round up everyone that knows more than they do.
          -Dylan, Desolation Row

     A little knowledge: I am on a ledge two hundred feet above pointy death; there is a gun at my back, and a man holding that gun; I have two options, and death is certainly one of them; my life has not flashed before my eyes, and I will not die without that final, biting cliché.
     I was trying to help. Given that, it only makes sense that I should be here, looking down at my death, with my death behind me. Vultures are circling above. This is a cliché, but it is not my final cliché.
     I turn to the man with the gun, and I ask him why I must die. I have to ask, and he has to tell me. I said to him once, My life is that kind of story, where everything happens for no reason other than that it must happen. He says I killed his sister. I say I was only trying to help. There is a struggle for the gun, he falls, and I stand above him, watching his form shrink and squirm until it hits the bottom.
     He reminds me of somebody. The friend I grew up next to, I think, or my first grade school crush (Susie May Wilkerson was her name). No, that's not it. Maybe my favorite Middle School teacher, Mister Horovitz, tough but firm, from whom I learned the most important lessons of life. No, again, not it. Perhaps my truest high school friend, who showed me the true meaning of friendship, and that you don't learn life from a book. No.
     I feel my feet leave the ground, and two hundred feet of dead air rush up and past me. I land next to the man with the gun.
     Damn sneaky clichés.

by MisterNihil 11:11 AM

My cereal box said to me this morning:
Trust your instincts. You know more than you think you do.

by Sharon 9:14 AM

{Tuesday, May 13, 2003}

Upon the event of your commencement:

Leela's world changed at forty miles an hour on an unpaved road, behind a 1956 Ford pickup truck. No doubt it had started as a joke, let's get high and ride around fast at night. Let's go out and have some fun. You only live once. Today, Leela might warn you against that, if she could. The sleeve of her jacket snagged on the tailgate, which was open. Yes, we all know, common courtesy dictates we shouldn't ride with the tailgate down. Common courtesy also warns against driving while high, and against having six people in the bed of a truck meant for three. They weren't observing common courtesy, and I know many of you children won't. Breeches of common courtesy seldom are as expensive as Leela's. She was drug for almost a quarter of a mile while her friends screamed and the driver of the truck careened heedlessly on. I have no doubt that it started as a joke, and that it ended as an accident. What I put to you, the soon to be graduates of Mrs. Pendergrast's 2003 Preschool Class, is that it could have been avoided, had common courtesy been observed.
Thank you.

by MisterNihil 11:16 PM

Grief is a drug. And I mean that in the nicest possible way. I like drugs. I have been a recreational user of a few, and a medical consumer of others. Marijuana can be a lot of fun, and penicillin is a good thing (not for the common cold or basic earache, mind you but a good thing nonetheless). Anyone who has had a root canal, or abdominal surgery has a healthy appreciation for analgesics. That’s what grief is. We all experience the pain of loss: relationships end; dreams fade; loved ones die. Grief gets you through the loss, takes you on that journey towards acceptance (feel free to roll your eyes here). Sounds like psychobabble, I know, but if you have ever been through some of these big deal losses and have not grieved, the pain stays with you, festers, abscesses, and infects other aspects of your life.

Pursuing this analogy a bit further, you have the folks who get some sort of contact high from the pain of others. I knew this horrible woman when I was a teenager (an obscure relation from one of my father’s marriages), whose two hobbies were crocheting and attending the funerals of children. She would read the obituaries everyday, and if a child had died, she would find out where and when the funeral was. She would don her funeral outfit and off she would go. If the death involved an infant, she would pick out one of her many-crocheted baby blankets (pink, blue or mint) and take it with her. She always came back stoned.

Grief is one drug, I have abused. I was a little like someone who has been in a terrible accident, has experienced great pain, and then got hooked on percodan. Justifying the grief by holding onto the pain. Because once I let go of the sadness, I would have to acknowledge the irretrievability of what was lost. It was an addiction that paralyzed me for nearly a year. I have experienced the pain of loss since that time. I will again. I approach it differently now. I still grieve, but pro re nata

by margaret 2:51 PM

“Right, now, before any of you wise-asses start snickering about it, yes, the “drug” ring was being run outta the back of Starbucks. Ironic I know, now get over it; it’s not that damn funny.

Bout three years ago we started hearin’ about a new designer drug called Damnation. Thing is, all it did was cause a euphoric sensation and left the user feeling guilt-free, energized, happy, productive and, I’m told, allowed for some really great sex. With all the other shit on the street Damnation really wasn’t high priority if you get me.

Then people started dieing. Not overdosing or anything like that mind you, but homicides. We don’t get a lot of that up here in Seattle, so, it didn’t take a lot to show up on radar if you get me. I only have a few minutes here so I’ll cut to the frickin’ chase. You see, when this started happenin’ we also stated hearin’ more and more from the star-gazin’ crystal-lovin’ hocus pocus types too. You know, the X-Files, Buffy world’s bein’ overrun by spooks types if you get me.

Eventually we tracked the whole thing back to this Damnation drug. Some supernatural/shrink consultant explained it as being a drug that tore down all inhibitions and concerns with, you know, morals, ethics and all that. Basically it dissolved the soul and left the body just fine. And better yet, the pushers were from hell. Course we all agreed that was a load of crap. Still, suddenly we had just a load of sociopaths runnin’ around poppin’ people left and right. Seems like every third person and his aunt Emma had decided to become a serial killer. Oh lucky us.

We finally tracked the bastards down and sure enough, demons.

by Shawn 2:12 PM


by margaret 11:45 AM

{Monday, May 12, 2003}

"Yes, I've got an issue."

Boy, do you. James kept the thought to himself. This Requirements Spec inspection had already lasted 70 minutes, beginning to eat into his lunch hour. Chalk it up to too many inspectors--some of them had actually read the damn thing. Like this little busy body--whats-her-name, Anne--who seemed to have a comment on each of the 27 sections covered to date. Who invites Business Analysts to requirements inspections, anyway? Criminy.

"In what section?" The moderator sounded tired, too. She ticked away at her laptop, either capturing issues or chatting on Instant Messenger.

"Two-dot-three-dot-one-dot-one-dot-twenty-eight: Risks and Mitigations? What's this first one, 'Grief-eating monsters'?"

James rolled his eyes and prepared himself for a tech-to-airhead translation. "Okay, in a project, there are going to be gremlins--um, what do you say, 'bugs'? Right, bugs. And those are excluded from the project plan, so that when they occur, we'll require 70- to 90-hour weeks from the developers, causing much grief. This is used to feed the--"

"I know, I know." Anne waved the explanation away. "I mean, why is it listed as a risk?"

James was relieved when the Project Manager, Keith, jumped in: "Oh, because the allocation of grief-eating monsters has doubled, while the Work/Life Balance Committee has reduced the available resources by 20%, so we're currently operating at a grief-deficit. They're going hungry, poor beasties."

"Sure, that makes sense." Anne nodded. "Log it as a class 4 revision, then, to re-word that item to include that explanation." She scanned down the rest of the page. "These make sense, 'flight, rat-race, zombies,' but what about the last one, '?'? What's that mean?"

James looked at Anne levelly. "The irrational fear of the unknown, of course."

by Sharon 3:15 PM

"I can make you happy," said the man at the funeral.

"What?" asked Jane. "Do I know you?"

"Not really," the man said. "But I knew your husband, Bill. I'm here to help."

"Help how?" Jane asked. "I should get back to the house. People are coming. I'll have to sign --"

"I can make it all go away."


"You'd like that, wouldn't you? To be happy again? To rid yourself off all this pain?"

"Who are you?"

"I told you, I knew your husband. Near the end. I tried to help him, too."

"I don't understand. What are you -- ?"

"I can take away your grief, Jane. I can make you whole. All you have to do is ask."

"Look, this isn't funny. How can you -- ?"

"A gift. Let's call it that. If you willingly give your grief to me, I can make you happy. If you take my hand, I can make all this sorrow go away."

"Take your hand?"

"You know I'm not lying to you, Jane. Look in my eyes. I'm only here to help."

"All right," sighed Jane. She took his hand and felt a cold wave wash over her. She could not tell for certain what had happened, or long it had lasted, but when she looked up the man was gone.

"Jane!" she heard her sister call from the car. "Are you coming? We should get back to the house."

For a moment, Jane just stood there. Then she simply shrugged and walked back to the road. She smiled when she saw her sister.

"Who was that you were talking to before?" her sister asked. "I didn't recognize him. Was he a friend of Bill's?"

"Who's Bill?" Jane asked.

by Fred 1:49 PM

     My mouth tastes like blood this morning, maybe from a night of too much coffee and not enough sleep. I hate the coffee shop and I hate to work there and I hate that I drink so much coffee. But, hey, it keeps me in caffeine, and it pays the rent. This morning, a man appeared in front of the counter, and said "-ow's it goinggggaAAAAAAGH!" He collapsed, and I called the paramedics. I told them he walked in and fell over, and I didn't tell the manager. He had a long beard, and his clothes had all these weird holes in them, and he was slowly oozing blood, and he just sort of *popped* out of the air. He wasn't there, and then he was. Poof, only no smoke, just him talking and finishing a sentence he started, or so I hear, five years ago. It's one of the hazards of being the new guy. Everybody but me knew about this. I had to pick it up, like "Hey, did you hear, Robbie's back. They say he-" and somebody'd hush them up, with a knowing glance at me. I got my boss drunk last weekend, barhopping, and he leaked the rest of the story to me.
     See, Robbie used to be a regular, and he used to work for NASA or something. Nobody knew. He's come in, talking all this junk about Quantum and stuff, and nobody knew, but the tips were good and Robbie was friendly, so he was one of those pleasant regulars who you don't shudder to think is Coming In Today. That's what my boss said, but again, I came in like four and a half years late on this one.
     So, yeah, one day, Robbie is walking up to the counter, my boss is standing there with the usual, coffee, black with five sugars, biggest we got, and Robbie just says, "Hey, h-" and, like, Pop, he's gone. My boss didn't tell anybody, but when I told him how Robbie came back, he looked all relieved and told me how he disappeared. He said that when Robbie went away, he saw this, like, black haze for just a second after, and these eyes, only they weren't eyes for seeing light. His description fell apart then, and he just shivered, turned, and threw up in the street.
     Robbie came into the store the other day, and they tell me he's normal, he just seems really happy. He's been back twice since, all smiles and greetings, and "Hey, how 'bout that," and "Yeah, I know, Damndest thing, I couldn't tell ya!" laughing and waving at people. But the second time, it was just him and me. I made his coffee, black, tall and sweet, and he just stood there for a minute. Then, he turned to me and, like all serious but still smiling, "You know, I can't be sad any more." I didn't get it. "I can't. I try sometimes, but I can't. They ate it all out of my head."
     He turned away, and just for a second, I saw those eyes my boss was talking about. Staring out of nothing, holding onto Robbie for a free ride to the lunch bufet, the they wasn't looking for light. It was like they stared into your memory. I been smiling a lot more lately. I'm hoping it fools them. And hey, the tips are better, right?


by MisterNihil 12:53 PM

grief-eating monsters

by Sharon 12:19 PM

{Sunday, May 11, 2003}


by Fred 3:18 PM

{Saturday, May 10, 2003}

     Charles had the sexiest of all tools, now in his possession. Yeah, the story behind it wasn't sexy, and yeah, the job wasn't particularly sexy, at least not in that traditionally modern sense that was so goddam important to so many of these fickle women, but in the coffee-house set, he knew, he would either be a Pariah, or a god.
     He was a writer. A new history of the tool wasn't any problem. It belonged to my maiden aunt; she used it as a paperweight for almost forty years. Yeah, that's not sexy, but with a little reinventing, it can have belonged to an english poet, murdered by a deranged Paris whore when she found him cheating on her with her brother. Or something. He had time to think of the story. It would come. Stories always did.
     The job wasn't sexy. Writers, you know, seem sexy until you meet one. That was a hard lesson to learn. Writers are just people, only they wrote something that everybody else in the universe wants to tear apart. Unless they're that hack, Alice Sebold. See? It's so easy to attack them, like they aren't just people, clacking away.
     But thats just it, isn't it? It's the clacking. There did sexiness lie. Yeah, probably eighty per cent of women would think it was dumb, sitting at a coffee shop table with a manual typewriter, composing something important (and everything is more important coming off of a typewriter), but you know what? 20% of the women in the world is a lot of women for one young man, and Charles had the sexiest of all tools. A heavy, manual Smith-Corona, early 20th century. Let 'em line up. He had clacking to do.

by MisterNihil 11:50 PM

Type. What the hell should he type? The clock was counting down the last few hours of the deadline, the deadline that had been extended twice and was, under no circumstances, going to benefit from such an act of editorial tolerance a third time.

It didn’t have to be Hemmingway; it didn’t have to set the world afire with literary brilliance or change the minds of men such that they set aside a million years of ill-conceived notions. It need not unveil any brilliant philosophies nor introduce and outline a new religious dogma to change the course of human history. All it had to do was review…the…frickin’…restaurant! Why was this so hard? He had written hundreds, maybe thousands of similar reviews over the years. From L.A. to Chicago, New York, Boston, Miami and a dozen cities over seas as well, he had praised and flayed the finest and foulest dining establishments in the nation and the important parts of Europe, why, now, was he having writer’s block. All he had to do was start typing. There had to be something he could say, something about this latest dining experience that was notable, notable good or bad but notable. All he had to do was start typing, experience would do the rest.

Nothing. The cursor blinked at him with a cold, cynical expectation as if ready to be disappointed by yet another of what had, after years of reviews, become a cookie cutter exercise in culinary critique. In three hours his editor would be sitting down at his desk, coffee in hand and read his morning emails. He would page down to Alphonse’s mail, see that there was, as promised, an attached .Doc praising or criticizing yet another “eatery” and forward it on to the layout department, unread, lost in the shuffle of editorial duties concerning things far more important than properly prepared cordon bleu.

Alphonse began to type. “She could feel the terror creeping forth from the swamp, so horrible as to defy description. It was a thing far older than the human race and known only in the darkest recesses of the most horrific of dreams…

by Shawn 11:44 PM

When the news of the tragedy at Brookfield High came across the wire, Lydia knew that her opportunity had finally arrived. It was better even than she had hoped. With hurricane and tornado season upon them, she figured it was just a matter of time. But this beat a natural disaster hands down, a school shooting. The drama junkies would be coming out of the woodwork. They were probably out shopping for teddy bears as the casualty list was being read over the radio. Hell, they might even skip or tape the latest reality series in order to revel in the pathos. Oh yeah, the mobile units would be mobbed. People waiting in line for hours, “sharing”, God knows they wouldn’t come out the rest of the year motivated by actual altruism. Melodrama was such a rush.

Lydia worked at the main lab of the Capital Blood and Tissue Center. They supplied about a dozen hospital and clinic in the tri-county area with blood. Blood donated in the field came through the main lab for typing. Ordinarily, less than a hundred or so samples came in on a daily basis. The donation would be individually typed, labeled, and placed in the sectional refrigerator. When there was a sudden massive influx of donations though, the individual units were typed and placed in coolers, until the end of the shift when they were counted and labels generated all at once.

It was a matter of two keystrokes. A became B; B became A. That was it. The computer made it easy. An entire days supply mislabeled. The “mistake” would be caught of course, but not right away. The seven trauma centers would certainly be hard pressed to type and cross match every bag of blood before infusing. They would rely on the label. The discovery would come too late for several poor suckers regardless. Lydia did not need to witness her handiwork, to feel the power she wasn’t the type.

by margaret 8:46 PM


by margaret 7:35 AM

{Friday, May 09, 2003}

The Duke pursed his fleshy lips and regarded his guest, admired again her rich, dark hair and alabaster skin. He retrieved a long, slender fork from the fondu pot and clamped his mouth around the cube of meat like a hungry frog. He smiled and closed his eyes. "Mercy, that's delicious."

His left hand crept towards his temple and squeezed a pimple, firing a plug of pus onto the table. Absently, he dabbed the trickle of blood with his linen napkin. After swallowing with a contented sigh, he snatched another fork out of the bubbling oil. "Would you like one, my dear? You're fairly wasting away." He held the quivvering chunk of flesh near her face. A drop of oil narrowly missed her skin. With the barest of movements, she turned her head away. It was like an invitation: He ran his broad, red tongue up her cheek, leaving a trail of sticky saliva she could not wipe away.

Satisfied, the Duke shrugged and popped the meat into his mouth. Chewing happily, he picked up the carving knife and admired its gleam. Cook kept his knives efficiently sharp. The Duke appreciated fine tools kept in good repair. He sliced another cube of muscle from the young woman's thigh and was pleased to find that she retained enough of her senses to scream.

by Sharon 11:59 PM

My husband is an artist, a writer, a sculptor. He weaves stories of word and picture. He is, in my somewhat subjective opinion, brilliant. Better than he knows, and his best work is still ahead. Most of you are also clearly very talented. I read what you produce, and I am constantly impressed, with the skill and artistry brought to bear on these little ten-minute pieces. Acts of creation, and while they may be throwaway trifles to you, they have a quality of permanence. There it is down on paper (virtually anyway). I, on the other hand feed people.

Feeding people is part of the job description really. So that’s no big deal, except that I’m really good at it. My trifles are actually consumed. Oh its not “Babette’s Feast” everyday at my house. I have been known to stir up a blue box of macaroni and cheese; hot dogs are still on my children’s menu. But I also prepare handmade meals. I love to entertain, because it is an excuse to pull out the stops, and pour on the detail. It is one of the ways I show affection. My sweetheart is far away right now. The complications of work schedules, time zones, and the enormous tasks associated with our big move across the country makes it difficult to speak everyday, or exchange more than business through email. But I can send food, a box of love in the mail. Until recently, cooking was my only creative outlet. I have known for some time cooking is a bona fide art form, but it’s also more than that.

I saw an interview with Alice Walker once, and she said that when she pictured the Mother Goddess, She had a soup ladle in her hand. I know exactly what she means. I recently had the privilege of preparing food for a religious ceremony. I created many dishes for the occasion, but I have repeated only one since. I call it Ritual Bread. Here’s what’s in it:

Passion Flour
Seeds of Change and Salt of the Earth
Milk of Human Kindness, and the Warm Water of Creation

All that and the formidable power and energy of its maker. I am an artist, an alchemist, a priestess, a cook. Come dine at my table. You won’t go away hungry.

by margaret 10:25 PM

It's summer. It's humid. The covers of the paperback books curl in the hazy air. They tell me that this is just a hazard of the business, that paperbacks, when displayed face out to entice custom have curly covers. They don't curl like that in the winter, when it's not so dry and not so hot. In the summer, though, it's a constant noise, the tiny sounds, below hearing but in mass quantities, of the books curling. Summer is here.
People take trips in summer. You didn't. People go outside and have fun. You didn't. People enjoy life as fully as they can, quickly while the year is in its middle age and its most easily manipulated, a midyear crisis that leads to a rememberance of what it means not to live, but to be alive. You didn't. People run and move and shake the dust off of their joints before snows or rain or the kind of heat that kills set in. You didn't. You're still here, and you're still reading this, and it's Friday. I know that you're starving. I can't feed you, but I can tell you where the grass grows green and the sun reminds you what your skin is for. Stop now. Go. Drink life, eat movement.

by MisterNihil 10:04 AM

I know that you're starving.

by Sharon 3:00 AM

{Thursday, May 08, 2003}

Part I
     With the sharpest knife, I twist. A spurt of blood hits me full in the chest, and I laugh. He's hanging from chains in the middle of a warehouse, and he won't tell me what I want to know. That's OK. I have all day and I'm almost ready to start asking questions.
     You're still here. You're still reading. Why? The day calls, the sun shines and your life will never be longer than it is in this second. Your pain can stop any time you let it. Stand up, move a little and enjoy your ability to do so. You don't need more gore in your life, do you? Gore is easy. Life is hard. Disconnect from this, and reconnect with something that feels like it matters. Come on, what are you waiting for? There isn't any more drug money. The unnamed anti-hero of the story has to go after another mark, and gross things happen anyway. There, now you know the ending, just go ahead and move a little.
     I giggle like a drunk school girl, and start on the other eye.

by MisterNihil 6:05 PM

The first question is usually about what it represents. The second, from the uninitiated, is "Didn't that hurt?" I'd had the same fear. But ask yourself: If it were so terrible, would people have more than one tattoo? Mind you, the same logic breaks down when you consider that people have siblings.

But no, my tattoo didn't hurt. It was uncomfortable. It reminded me of menstrual cramps, and those were less severe in those days. Now, given what every 26th day is like, a tattoo should be a cake walk. (28 is an average. 28 is an imposition. Unfettered, my cycle is 26. I've been keeping track.)

Sitting in a Winnebago in the woods of New York, receiving pointed attention from a man named Crow, my thought was simply, "This could stop any time." I admitted to Crow that I needed a break, and I apologized for being such a wimp. He said, "You can't say that you're a wimp anymore. You have a tattoo."


I have heard that we don't remember pain. We may have memories of events that we've told ourselves were painful, but we don't actually remember the reality of the pain. (See the note on siblings, above.) Perhaps. But I'm still looking for more ink.

by Sharon 5:05 PM

“The pain can stop any time you like,” said a small voice in the back of Clifford’s head. He knew the voice was right of course, but knew that after all of these years, through a lifetime of successes, failures, notoriety, a world war, a variety of romantic and political conflicts, the pain was all he had left. All he had left of his lifelong nemesis and fellow author, Simon Farthington.

They had been friends once, long, long ago, and no enemies are so bitter as those who had once been the closest of friends. It had started in college and was, perhaps, over a girl, as so many hostilities seem to be. The stuff of cheap romance novels to be sure. If this was in-fact the real catalyst of their 58-year, on-going bickering, biting and backstabbing in the salons and journals of the literary world Clifford was hard-pressed to remember who the woman may have been. In any case, with the New York elite, the novelists, playwrights, and the critics thereof, as their ever captive audience the two men spent a lifetime being cutting, at times, brutal critics of each other’s literary offerings.

Farthington died in 94 and was laid to rest under the eyes of friends, family and fans. Clifford stood stoically in the back watching – most assumed with great satisfaction – as his life-long rival was eulogized. The truth was that then, as now, nine years later, he was saddened to his very core. Even now, the pain remained, bitter, clutching, tainting the world around him. The world without Farthington seemed lessened, empty and would never again be graced by what Clifford Harmond considered to be some of the, if not the, best efforts of the literary world.

by Shawn 3:12 PM

Pain Can Stop
any time you let it.

by MisterNihil 4:13 AM

{Wednesday, May 07, 2003}

Among other things, development suggested photography. So I started writing:

The man in the photograph wasn't there. At least, Jane couldn't remember him being there. He did not look familiar.

"Who's that?" she asked her father. It had been his birthday party, after all, and she didn't know all her parents' friends. She pointed. "See, the guy in the black coat next to Mom? I could have sworn he wasn't there when I took the picture."

Her father peered at the photo. "Hmm," he said. "Beats me. Your mother might know. I don't think I knew half the people she invited."

Jane shrugged. "Okay," she said. "No big deal, I was just wondering. It's weird, that's all. He looks kind of creepy."

"Maybe he's one of the waiters," her father said.

"Maybe," said Jane.

She put the photograph aside and went back to her term paper. She had at least eight more pages to finish before she was through. She would have forgotten all about it, she later realized, had her father not answered the phone.

"Jane!" he called. "We've -- the hospital -- we've got to go -- your mother's -- there's -- there's been an accident."

So, okay. Jane's mother had died, that much I knew, and the man in the photograph was Death. Somehow, the camera had spotted him, even when the people at the birthday party hadn't. Other photographs would emerge, and whoever was standing next to Death in them would later die, one by one. Perhaps, in the end, Jane would take her own photograph for some reason, bringing the story full-circle. It seemed like a workable, if not wholly original, idea. But not one I could finish in ten minutes. So I stopped.

by Fred 11:59 PM

The time had come. Years of unchecked sprawl, lax environmental regulation, even less rigorous enforcement laid the foundation. Chemical run-off from housing complexes, strip malls and highway projects provided the framework. Then came the blessed smog lying across the landscape like a heavy blanket, trapping warmth and moisture.

The hatch: winged cockroaches, the size of field mice, invaded the plumbing, fouling the freshwater and flooding streets and homes with raw sewage; rats feeding on the offal grew to insane size; new strains of bacteria bloomed, carried in the fetid air. The humans with their immune systems flabby from years of antibiotic abuse, died in droves. The rest fled. She began anew.

by margaret 1:30 PM

The pros never used tongs, so you didn't either, if you wanted to look cool. Karen liked the strange smell that catches like caramel in the back of her throat, clinging to her hands for the rest of the day, marking her as priviledged.

Developer, to bath, to fixer, spending the day with her hands in tepid tubs of liquid, Karen created prints that would become halftones that would become negatives that would become ink on newsprint that would become smudges on the hands of students.

Developer, to bath--wait a minute. This print was ruined. Something large and black obliterated most of the sky above a rather insipid staged shot of this year's honor students on the back steps by the gym. Karen dumped the print into the fixer and turned back to the enlarger. The neg had looked normal when she'd exposed the paper. Boring, but normal. (She thought portraits had no place in a newspaper--even a high school newspaper. Action shots, people. Action.)

She dried her hands, fished another sheet out of the paper vault, reduced the exposure time on the clock, and punched the button. Light, count three, and off. She tossed the blank paper into the developer, but this time she watched it.

Gray sketches... gym... nerds... sky... a little underexposed this time--And then a rushing blackness, welling up from inside the paper, clawing its way to the surface, blotted out the sky and gripped the school in its tendrils. Karen gaped. The way it developed, it gave the illusion of movement on the paper. It seemed to have teeth.

Karen reached for the tongs.

by Sharon 12:36 PM

He changes again.
He is a twisting finger of smoke on the new summer morning. He spins gleefully up into the heavens. Below is past, above is oblivion, he is alive in the moment. His particles spin and dance, spewing heat in every direction, slowing rapidly. He sees his dispersion and rejoices for it is his fate, it is his destiny to do die happy in the sky. His whispy body extends and expands, now six inches across, three feet long, and almost translucent. The distance between his particles becomes such that he cannot feel cohesion, and he becomes grit in the sky, racing for eternity. He becomes the seeds of clouds, a sheen on a mirror and a tickle in a dog's lung. He is spread into the vastness of the sky.
He changes again.

by MisterNihil 12:12 PM


by Sharon 12:02 PM

{Tuesday, May 06, 2003}

It took me so long to get back. I had to see you again my love. You have changed so. Aged. I might not have known you but for your eyes, large and gray, clear as a promise. I did not choose to leave you. You are well loved I see. Another woman strokes your hair. Another woman kisses those perfect lips. I so wanted to be the one. I did not choose to leave you. She is a gift, your present. I am your past.

You have forgotten me. You were so young. Now that I have found you again, I will stay near. I did not choose to leave you. When you awake smiling from a forgotten dream, I am with you. I will be the sudden surprising warmth on a winter’s morning, the chimes you hear on a windless night. In the summertime when you dash after butterflies, and make daisy chains in the yard I will watch in love and wonder. I did not choose to leave you. Remember me.

by margaret 9:38 PM

Diseased and useless,
Forget why
You ever wanted it.
Keep it in
A lacquer box
For old times' sake.
Look at it,
Ignore it,
Set tchotchkes on top of it,
Dust around it.
Useless thing.
But a forgotten limb,
Over time,
Itches with nerve-fire,
And there's
There to scratch.
Poor bastard.
No relief.
In phantom heartache.

by Sharon 12:12 PM

How about
phantom heartache

by margaret 11:37 AM

{Monday, May 05, 2003}

I've been sitting in my car for almost three hours. I'd seen Vince go into the Rat Hole Barre and Grille on sixteenth street, and I was waiting for him to come out. The Rat Hole, see, is in violation of city fire code, and has no back door. The only way in or out is through the front door. I happen to know Vince is involved in about half of the drugs that get sold on this side of town, and I happen to know he was forced into a deal at the Rat Hole involving a large sum of cash. I've had a busy weekend. Here in my pocket I've got a small caliber pistol and two very sharp knives. I intend to make sure Vince has a very interesting week.
As I'm sitting there a kid, maybe twenty, maybe less, runs across the street and knocks on my window. I roll it down, and he says "Mister Vincenzo has an offer to make you." I step out of the car and beckon the kid into my office. Once we're safely in the alley, out of sight of the bar, the kid says "Mister Vincenzo would like to offer you a cut, if you'll stop tailing him. He is aware that you have been a thorn in his side for some time, and he offers this." The kid hands me a dirty envelope full of bills. I pocket it, and slip the shorter of the two knives cleanly into his belly. "Kid," I say, "why don't you tell me how much money there still is in there?"
The kid's eyes pop open. That alone would make the whole thing worth it, if I didn't know how much cash I was near to laying my hands on.
"I don't know," he murmurs. "I only know just the one thing, he says..." The kid closes his eyes and passes out. I pull my knife free and tuck it back into my pocket. I head back to the car, and see Vince peeking out of a window. I hold up the envelope, and nod at him. He steps out the door, carrying a big, black suitcase. I saunter up to him. He doesn't look worried.
"I knew you were a man of reason." I nod, and offer him a ride. He looks skeptical, but I can see the thought of that money in his eyes. He thinks I'm bought. I love this next part. With him in the car next to me, I drive the four blocks to an empty warehouse I'm renting. Before he realizes what's happening, we're inside and I've got a gun to his head. He grudgingly hands over the suitcase. I hit the back of his head with the butt of the gun, and drag him, unconscious across the warehouse. When he wakes up, he's chained to the ceiling, and I've got the filet knife. I don't even ask him any questions.

by MisterNihil 3:37 PM

Because I have time right now and I probably won’t latter I thought I would catch up on the weekend topics. When first I saw then topic of puppets, I was trying to come up with some clever bit of fiction that did not seem hackneyed or trite. Unfortunately, my imagination seems to be on a rather extended coffee break. Maybe it will come back fueled up and ready, but in the interim I am going to talk about programming on PBS.

Before my kids were born, I prided myself on despising Barney. The thing is, Barney is really nice. No really, he is. For the most part the messages (and there is always a message), while somewhat heavy handed are about qualities that I want to foster in my children: love, compassion, generosity, loyalty, imagination. The list goes on and on. Now I can’t say I ever became fond of Barney, but I have to say I welcomed that purple dinosaur in my home.

On the other hand, and well I got to say it, its true confessions time. I_ love _ Sesame_ Street. Its funny, its stimulating, its educational (we can count all the way up to twenty these days). They have fantastic guest stars: Maya Angelou, REM, Spike Lee, the Squirrel Nut Zippers. And yes there are the puppets. I have a nostalgic preference for the old timers: The Count, Oscar, Cookie Monster, and my personal favorite, the hapless super hero/clown, Grover. I have never been a big fan of Big Bird, but my two year old loves him. This morning I heard an interview with Carroll Spinney (sp?), who has been the man behind the Beak and the body in the suit for Sesame Street’s entire run. That speaks volumes about Sesame Street and the people behind and within it. Even with all the new faces, and the changes in demographics Sesame Street has kept up the level of its quality and its mission in place. Still non-profit and going strong. And children and their parents are the beneficiaries.

And in the better late than never category: I, on behalf of children and parents everywhere, would like to thank the cosmos for Fred Rogers. People who have never watched Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, tend to think of it as a light bit of fluff, or as treacle. Many I am sure were somewhat influenced by the Saturday Night Live send up. I was one of them. Then I watched it one day with my first child, and a group of his toddler friends. Where Sesame Street and newer programs like Blues Clues stimulate, excite and entertain kids, (and parents alike) Mr. Rogers brought something else. He brought serenity. He spoke directly to children. He never patronized, and there were no little over their heads jokes to keep the parents amused. I met Mr. Rogers a couple of times when I was in my twenties and tragically hip. And I have to say he had an aura about him. He was a gentleman, a gentle man. He dedicated his life to being a friend to children. He did it with beauty, grace, and yes puppets. Good Job Fred!

by margaret 11:08 AM

Jon said yesterday, regarding his topic:
I know just the thing.

by Sharon 11:01 AM

{Sunday, May 04, 2003}

Better late than never

by Shawn 8:39 PM

{Saturday, May 03, 2003}

     He loves his little puppets. He paints them blue or red, and leaves them in the windowsill to dry. This week half are blue and half are red. He tells me their names, but they're never the same from day to day. Fritzy and Bubbles and Gramble and something that sounds like pssstch pssstch. It used to bother his mom, but she eventually got used to it. We asked him where he got them once, and he told us and we were satisfied.
     He loves his little puppets, but sometimes they fight. He holds them up and they yell or punch or kick. Once, he tells us, there was an enormous war. We saw the aftermath, and I helped clean them up off the floor. The puppets splinter when they fight, apparently. He'd just painted them the day before, and they were all red. There are still some red stains on the floor of his room
     He loves his little puppets. He talks to them and sings them to sleep at night. Sometimes we hear him leading them in games of tag. He tells us we have to keep the door closed when he plays with them because they get self conscious. He talks to them, and he talks back in their little squeeky voices. His mom used to worry, but she doesn't any more. I don't worry either. He's happy with his little puppets.
     He loves his little puppets. The first time I saw them, he only had six of them. He told us their names, and they were all named either Andre or Elizabeth. He told us they did that so they could tell the boys from the girls. I know that some time about a week later, he had more than fifty. They were all over his room. They have little beady eyes that google in their heads. I don't mind them so much, but he loves them. His mom still feels a little creeped out by them, but it's only bad at night. She says she can hear them, scratching at the walls. She wants to get rid of them, but he does love his little puppets.

by MisterNihil 10:23 AM


by Fred 9:25 AM

{Friday, May 02, 2003}

We have had it with you. You modern creative types have such short attention spans. Can’t you hold onto anything? I blame technology. We work and we work, sending little gifts your way. And most of the time you can’t tear your gaze away from the television or the computer screen or your own navels long enough to do anything with the daily wonders we supply. Its not like we expect credit anymore. It’s the cult of the ego these days; I mean really, when was the last time you laid any flowers at the altar.

Angst. Geeze, you piss and moan that you have no inspiration. Are you not paying attention? You, did you see that sunrise this morning, the pinky dawn giving way to the rose, surrendering to the scarlet? Did you make notes for an oil; take a photo, envision a watercolor? No, you bitched that it would probably rain on your newly washed car. Okay what about the way the moonlight danced on the lake, just as your song came on the radio. It was your anniversary for heavens sake. Did you think it was mere coincidence? Where’s the love poem? Huh? Did you hear the way the rain beat that quick tattoo on the objects outside your window (didn’t you wonder how the watering can wound up on the roof)? Where is the Jazz melody to accompany that rhythm?

Okay so natural beauty is not your thing. Fine. What about the people you encounter everyday, don’t they get those creative juices flowing. You, do you notice that he, unasked, brings you tea just when you need it, and puts in just the right amount of honey every time. And what about that lovely girl we sent to you in the grocery store? You saw her, and knew her to be an old soul immediately. You recognized her as being just like you, even though she was chunky, and Asian, and nine. Come on. The connection went beyond the “hello kitty” t-shirts. These everyday graces are the stuff of which dreams, and art are made.

And what about you? You have heard your baby laugh, you have seen your daughter’s smile. We know you were moved, write it down, a hymn of gratitude maybe. And what about your wife? Were you even present as she pleasured you, expecting nothing in return, reveling in your release. Do you remember the passion, the energy? You think you could hang onto those feelings as long as it took to get you off. Erotica is a dying art. How about a lyric? Not hip hop or rap( and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers have more than fulfilled their duty on that score). Explore a new genre; how about a Country and Western song “I got fellatio at the rodeo. . .” Shoot, maybe just a limerick.

And you, you do know she only makes that soup when you come to visit; homemade stock, fresh vegetables, hand made meatballs Do you have any idea how much time that takes? Salinger was right. That soup is consecrated with a mothers love. Don’t even get me started on her lasagna.

Inspiration is singing outside your window. It is blooming in your neighbors yard. It sends you five dollars on your 24th birthday. It is lying in your bed, and giggling in your back seat. If you are uninspired, you are unconscious. WAKE UP!

by margaret 11:21 PM

"Why do you do it, Cal?" Mel sadly regarded her sister, who was tapping fervently on her PDA with its stylus.

Cal waved black fingernails absently: Don't bother me. After ignoring this one for months, she now needed the timing to be precise. She chewed on her lip a moment, to get this just right, and bumped a finger along the studs on her collar. Now, when he is trapped in a project status meeting—without paper—just called on to answer for their delays, open the block on his novel. Pour it unmercifully into his head. Back up the sewers with the effluent. Crowd out any thoughts of project plans or road maps or plausible excuses. Here you are, little man: Write!

She sat back and grinned at Mel, propping her Chucks on the table. That was satisfying. "Why do I do it?" Calliope tugged at her striped tights behind her left knee. "To fuck with them."

by Sharon 12:34 PM


by margaret 7:30 AM

{Thursday, May 01, 2003}

Jane could not believe that Peyton was late. Its not like she didn’t know what day it was. The two women had been celebrating their mutual birthdays together for twelve years; ever since their mothers had independently decided to relive their respective youths by throwing a sweet sixteen party for their mortified daughters. It had really been quite the mix up. The Gracious Lady Inn had double booked its Garden Party Room. There they were two overdressed teenagers, two catering trucks (one with an ice sculpture, one with whimsical fruit animals), two bands (one rock, one swing), 217 guests, and two lapsed southern belles, all in a room designed to hold a maximum of 125 people. And everyone was really pissed off.

What a day that had been. Jane had crammed her thick body into a light blue ruffled horror. It was made out of some material that in the future would be used to exfoliate dry skin. Peyton on the other hand was cool in barely pink silk. It draped perfectly over her long angular frame. She looked to Jane like she stepped right off a magazine. Their eyes met, they smiled and ditched their mothers (haranguing the banquet coordinator) and their guests and stole outside. Jane had brought along a joint to get her through that night. She fired up. Peyton joined her. And the two quietly got stoned sitting out on the gazebo while the rented swans paddled lazily around the pond.

They had been best friends ever since.

And now Peyton was late for brunch. Jane knew why. Peyton had called her two nights ago sobbing because she had been in another fight with Billy. Billy?! What kind of a name was that for a grown man? Ever since Peyton had started seeing him he monopolized her time. She and Jane hadn’t been to a movie in months. They hadn’t even had lunch. Her cell phone rang, she could see that it was Peyton. The reception was bad. “Hey where are you Pey?” Peyton’s voice was hoarse and distant “We’re breaking up, . . Billy and I. . . don’t know what. . .time seemed righ. .” “you and Billy are breaking up, Peyton you’ll be okay. He isn’t right for you. He’s a jerk, he doesn’t know how to treat you. I think this will be good for you.” Jane . . .can’t . . ear . . you Sorry, over. . lept I don’t think I will . . .ake it to . . unch. . . aybe next . . . eek . .Sorry . . ane were . . . breaking up.

by margaret 11:23 PM

   I wish I'd gotten to know her before I fell in love, say They Might Be Giants. A relationship, any kind, moves in sine waves, up and down, peaks and troughs. Sometimes we are happy, sometimes we are energetic, sometimes we are private, sometimes we are friends. Sometimes we are just in flux. For a moment, we can exist at a middle energy level, stable but fragile, individual and coupled.
   Here's the analogy I want: Imagine a car with twelve gas pedals. Each increases the velocity in a specific direction. Now imagine that there are two drivers, dancing across the front seat. That's a relationship. Sure, you can punch it in whatever direction you want to go, but so can the other driver. And you both have leaking, squeeky brakes.
   Now, friends; friends is good. You can be in a sexual relationship and still work on being friends. What you can't do is divide the two. I think it's nice to have been friends before the relationship, but I wouldn't know. I've never done that.
   I'll let it trail off there. You've always got choices. The muffler may drag, and you can just use a wire coathanger, or you can go into the Shop, or you can just go for the trade-in. I guess I should end with a quote of some kind that's appropriate. I like to cap off with BrotherMachine/SuperFlux, so how 'bout "When Love broke into pieces, the whole wide world broke too. When Love broke into pieces I knew this was not for me and you."

"Out of Jail" belongs to They Might Be Giants. "Pieces of Love" belongs to Brother Machine. I'm not challenging this ownership.

by MisterNihil 1:07 PM


<blockquote class="topic">your topic</blockquote>