July 26, 2017 § Leave a comment
their souls were in fact not dark, twisted, or impaired. Instead, they were green and immature, inconsiderate of the bevy of choices presented every moment, which would allow them to either stand still in dumb abeyance, wilting in limbo, or ripen with age.
The girls thought that they were bonding, getting to know each other. At least, that’s what they called it. Drinks, shows, lattes, texts, laughter, and even somber tales. But they were only covering the pain, the hurt that comes with jealousy and loneliness. Eventually, their connection would evolve into a bond of the erotic kind with the subject of their accidental subterfuge being just a boy, the focus of their pain. And it would start all over again.
June 19, 2017 § Leave a comment
As an outsider who has resided largely in Mad City for the last nine years, my perspective is not so much mixed as it is unusual. I would offer the following information to the more observant traveler who may be looking for something on their journey other than tourist sites and local food: Mad City hosts strange and eerie sudden changes in pressure, a solid weather scheme that brags of no surprises, and a diverse group of people who are all oddly similar at first glance. This hodgepodge is what I call the Mad City Brew Phenomena. It takes a person of a holy, mystical, or artistic background to see the magic that underlies the days. Mad City, a place where saints tend bar—and sit to drink in them—and half-angels exercise their charms in the swarms of college students, finding sanctuary and earthly approbation, brew by brew and bosom by bosom.
Half-angels are a dangerous breed. They spend the first part of their lives confused. The Original Sin of humanity’s original couple is nothing compared to the fall from grace experienced by those who are half-divine. It doesn’t pass on, mostly. Half-angels are only half-angels. There are no quarter angels or humans with one eighth of angel heritage. The magic dissolves after the firstborn half-angel. These half-angels are distraught and pitiful creatures, unlike humans, they cannot bear to have children. Half-angels are mostly a disgrace to mankind, sexual deviants, sociopaths, serial killers, there are few that can reconcile their bloodline, whether they know of it or not.
Their question to the heavens is “Why?” and then “Fuck you for delivering me into hell.” And then, again, “Why?”
Half-angels are in top form during Autumn, they are beyond captivating. You can see dreams brimming at the corners of their eyes. Their speech is snappy, feverish with intensity. Their dialogue like the light crackle of a bonfire, their words like the crunch of a cornhusk.
They are casually seductive. Everything they do is almost on purpose. It is the way they linger. Twirling an empty rocks glass with one hand while listening to a story. Or palming an apple, tapping it with polished nails, thinking about where to would break the skin first.
If they are sorry or sad, unable to find the words to express themselves, they use their bodies as an apologetic tool. All the words they know can’t afford them the right thing to say at the right time. But feeling pleasure, and giving pleasure, forms the perfect sentiment.
You can spot a half angel if you look closely, but you can only recognize them when the leaves have fallen. You can spot this unusual halo, sometimes, when the leaves form a whirling hurricane around them. This can happen anywhere. When they are at an intersection, waiting to cross the street; while they are smoking a cigarette outside; while they are fucking a beautiful girl the leaves will beat madly outside their window.
June 18, 2017 § Leave a comment
November 1st, 1991
In the summer of ’72, I was sponsoring a young man at a summer gala in Madison, Wisconsin. Not quite like the kind of sponsor that first comes to mind, especially not at a gala where Mickey Mantle was the keynote speaker. The crowd held onto to his every word while Mantle hung onto a pint glass of vodka, taking swigs from it as if his mouth had grown dry from talking.
After his speech, while the sun was setting over the Monona terrace, I overheard her Mantle say to young woman, “Well, I was going to tell you a joke so funny it would make your tits fall off. But I can see that that has already happened.”
Baseball has always been full of colorful characters, and worse things have been said in its locker rooms, according to Mantle’s teammate, Jim Bouton, who penned the controversial Ball Four. Another colorful character in the world of baseball is Tommy Lasorda, the man responsible for coining the term “Fall Classic,” referring to the October games known as the World Series. For this, I can almost forgive Lasorda for the antics surrounding the death of his son, as nothing imparts goose bumps more than switching on the radio in October and hearing the august phrase, “Fall Classic.”
Many a fall afternoon I would open a few windows and turn on the radio, warming up to the noise of America’s past time. The radio expelled the sounds of a game like the wind that released the chill October air into my living room, perfectly inundating my senses. October and baseball, what could be better than that?
It’s no surprise to me then that I met Thursday Shepherd a few days after the 1991 World Series. With the Minnesota Twins victory over the Atlanta Braves and the Perfect Storm that left the upper Midwest an icy, fairy hinterland, it was fated that I would meet the little cellar dweller.
The World Series that ended on October 27th, 1991, is considered to be one of the greatest series ever played. Five of the seven games were decided by a single run. In the seventh game, Jack Morris pitched for ten innings, keeping the Braves at length, Chuck Knoblauch faked a catch that prevented the Braves from scoring, and Gene Larkin laced a single to the outfield that drove in the winning run. “Twincredible,” the headlines read. I had attended all seven games, four in Minnesota and three in Georgia, though through means that I can neither properly explain nor disclose.
Five days after the Twins victory, on Halloween, occurred the second most important event to happen to the Twin Cities that fall. Violent weather patterns in the Midwest and the Atlantic Coast created forces known as a Perfect Storm. In Northern Minnesota and Wisconsin, these forces came in the form of the most menacing blizzard of the decade. Light snowfall deceived eager trick-or-treaters into walking the streets but by ten o’clock that night, every citizen had retired to their homes. The Twin Cities cowered, rendered immobile.
The morning after the blizzard, Thursday Shepherd peered through a second-story hotel room, anxious to know what was keeping the Shepherd family from moving into their new home. It never snowed as much in Michigan. No one person took a shovel to the sidewalks that day. Everyone understood that all of Northwest Minnesota had been snowed in. Like the Twins, it was a storm that broke records.
She caught me smoking a cigarette, knee deep in the most threatening drifts she had ever seen. Her gaze startled me, I dropped my cigarette and fell out of one boot. She gave me an unsurprised look and turned away from the window.
I sighed, forgetting the slush I had pulled back into my boot. “Oh, blue.”
It was November 1st, 1991.
It is rare that I sponsor children. Largely, because they have difficulty understanding my purpose and tend to discuss my presence with adults, who chalk me up as an imaginary friend. So how was it that I came to know Thursday Shepherd at the young age of eight years old? The older memories I have of Thursday are likely the same ones she possesses of me. I’m not sure if she always knew who I was. She looked at me the same way one looks the old oak tree in the front yard—she didn’t always notice me, but she knew I was there. I would like to say that Thursday knew I was protecting her, but truthfully, children largely ignore adults until they are much older.
I had the pleasure of watching Thursday grow up because she was unable to speak until she was ten years old, and therefore unable to turn me in, as an imaginary friend or some kind of pedophile. At the tender age of two, Thursday had a rather large vocabulary for a toddler, but a freak accident involving an ice cream truck and the little boy who lived across the street, rattled Thursday. Young David Leland had been crouched over the curb looking for a toy and the Ice Cream man didn’t see him. David suffered a head injury that rendered him unable to speak. A child psychologist theorized that Thursday’s sudden muteness was an effort of solidarity on her part, an empathic reaction so extreme that it barred her physical ability to converse.
“The fact that you were around before I could talk was possibly the only blessing behind my condition,” she told me once. “Had I been able to speak I would have told my parents all about you. Mom might have believed me, but likely I would have spent my childhood in front of a psychiatrist.”
“I know that you were friendless and lonely because of it,” I told her. “But I don’t think you would have been able to see the world the way that you do had you been able to speak. You’ve might not have noticed me, we might have missed each other altogether.”
Thurday snorted. “And all along I thought you had been assigned to me. Thanks, Warden.”
“It doesn’t quite work that way.”
Thursday was ten years old when she spoke again. One afternoon in the kitchen with her mother, she rifled through the cupboards, and said plainly, “Where is the peanut butter?”
Her mother, Thursday explained, having heard her daughter’s voice for the first time in years, handled herself quite well. She opened up the cupboard above Thursday’s heard and handed her the jar.
“Would you like some jam with that?” asked her mother.
“No, thank you,” said Thursday, and it was business as usual in the Shepherd household.
June 18, 2017 § Leave a comment
Vignettes to be casually inserted into novel.
Saint Jude was the patron saint of desperate causes, he helped those in urgent need, and if Thursday had lost God and Jesus years ago, she kept Saint Jude around purely because he was less judgmental than the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Jude was also the name of her last—and possibly final relationship, she worried—and when she pictured St. Jude, hanging around on her left shoulder blade (the right shoulder was reserved for her actual conscience—a prissy, preppy girl who was quite naïve), she pictured him dressed like Jude, in tight, dark jeans with black leather loafers, wearing a Jawbreaker t-shirt and smoking Winston Lights. That voice in her left ear, Saint Jude always lighted a cigarette, inhaled deeply, and sighed upon exhalation as he told her things she never wanted to hear, and as it turned out, he was always right, a habit that irritated her deeply. At age nineteen, Thursday had suffered a heinous ear infection that left her partially deaf in her left ear, the only culpable explanation for the frequent miscommunications with the angel on her shoulder.
When the inside of her left ear began to ache, she partially blamed the change in weather, but also Saint Jude’s nagging advice coupled with his second-hand smoke exhalations.“God, I know, okay?” she was frequently heard to say aloud, or, “Stop, you’re giving me another earache.” Every once in a while, someone would look at her funny, and Thursday would explain that she often spoke to herself, and they would nod at her as if this were an acceptable thing to do.
If there was change jangling in her pockets, Thursday was happy to spare it to the mendicants on City Street. A chilly December night, on her way home from work, she met a bum with large dirty glasses, covering himself with blanket, meagerly asking for change in a voice as soft as a wet kitten, the runt of the litter, mewing blindly for food, and even though Thursday had seen him at the local Starbucks before sipping on lattes, she reminded herself that it was coffee at least, not booze, and who was she to judge what beggars did with their fifteen dollars an hour (on a good day) in their panhandler occupations. She handed him a dollar. “I’ve been giving you change since I was eighteen,” she said. “You should know my name by now.”
He accepted the dollar, far less eagerly than he had asked for it. She half-expected him to pull out a crocodile-skin wallet. “I like to watch ‘em grow up,” he said. Thursday chuckled and went on her way.
The bums around City Street were spoiled. Scanner Dan had an apartment paid for by a sorority house. Steam Tunnel Bob was given an obituary and a candlelight service by the lake. But that didn’t change the fact that Scanner Dan was potato sacks of marbles mad, and Steam Tunnel Bob had froze to death at the opening of one of the notorious steam tunnels that he navigated so well. It was too bad, about Steam Tunnel Bob, she had always thought of paying him to be her guide to explore the Mad City underground. But he died with his steam tunnels and who knew what other absurd secrets.
He wasn’t that cute, and his roommate kept pinching her ass over a game of drunken chess until she told him to knock it off, even then he giggled like her seven year sister when she knew she was being naughty. The naughtiness of a thirty-something, however, suffered from a lack of cuteness that the naughtiness of child struck with melted gold ringlets. “Let me walk you home,” said the not-so-cute man.
“Sure, but you should know that that’s all you’ll be doing,” said Thursday.
It was the first real snowfall of the winter, heavy enough to cancel university classes, but soft and wet enough to roll snowballs up the mile long City Street until they became snow boulders, or make snowmen that sat on bus stop benches wearing silly grins and smoking pipes with tendrils of cigarette box plastic peaking from the ends of broken twigs, frozen and crackling. The storm encapsulated the isthmus, a record amount of snow fell around the city like a gothic theater curtain, keeping the inside of the isthmus warm and sultry, the players drunk on bliss. The snowfall silenced the traffic and the trains.
Thursday playfully let the not-so-cute man kiss her on the walk home, but by the third stop-and-kiss she became bored and annoyed with his passions.
He tried to feel between her legs under her long coat, under her sweater, only to half-grope at two layers of pants while they stood at the entrance to her building.
“I said,” she reminded him, “that the only thing you would be doing was walking me home. You kissed me by the way, and it didn’t change my mind. It was nice to randomly be hit by a snowball, and to meet your roommate, but night has come to a close. Goodnight.” She laid this last line on him with the seriousness of an actor in Macbeth, but the smile on her face as she walked the three flights of stairs to apartment suggested that she cheerfully considered him a Falstaff, and that maybe she considered most men Falstaffs.
She saw him many times later at a popular restaurant. She knew his ex-girlfriend as a customer from the Tortoise who had fucked many other customers there. He didn’t recognize her, or he pretended not to, and she smiled every time his eyes purposefully missed hers. Don’t worry cowboy. That snowy night will remain our saccharine sweet secret.
November shook the oaks and maples free of their brightly painted foliage like a bad baby-sitter, leaving the trees dark and menacingly naked, gripping the landscape in a crooked grim death-hold. Thursday half-expected to see corpses dangling from the gnarled tendrils of the trees that guarded the streetscape like monolithic sentries in a post-apocalyptic future. Thursday knew these types of observations would be the final word on her day of judgment that would send her caroming head-first on the highway to hell.
The porches were back in season, Thursday noticed, which meant that it was truly summertime once more in Mad City. Almost every house east of the campus had a porch, and that evening, each stack of barely rotten wood was stocked with fresh bodies: people wedged between each other, people sitting on the steps or the wooden rails, people wandering in and out of the house for cold beer or vodka lemonade. All of them looked as though they were mingling on the deck of a cruise ship, staring out into the blue Mediterranean, rather than glued to shabby wood planks or beds of concrete by their dirty Converse sneakers, staring out into the traffic ridden east side of town, people-watching, chatting, and smoldering over rich barbeques that rang true to meat eaters everywhere.
Young men and women cozying up amongst one another, smoking cigarettes, spliffs, blunts, bongs, a line of coke or too, and some vicodin to keep the other drugs under control, drinking summer beers like Hopalicious or Bell’s Oberon with Lake Mendota just a short walk away. When the night hit, the lake would be filled with mischievous skinny-dippers. Porch season was the only thing about Mad City that Thursday would miss.
Thursday and Hyma walked along the train tracks near an abandoned warehouse off Lake Michigan. The malt liquor was slowly taking the edge of her hangover.
Trains clattered by, shrieking horns and whistling steel. Her whole body shook, her teeth rattled and her Colt 45 foamed at the neck. All the freight cars were covered in graffiti that reached as high as a human arm could reach. It was a sight she found comfort in—train cars that her grandpa hopped cross-country and the ones that were so epically described in beat poetry weren’t tagged with cans of spray paint, this was the work of modern slum angels, ragged sloppy kisses bestowed upon the past as a gift from the present.
The steam tunnels erupted in the winter through the manholes in the streets; something angry was stirring, furiously boiling underneath the city of Milwaukee. She could see hints of the anger sometimes; sections of asphalt that had been effaced to bare the swollen bricks underneath the streets, like a scab that had been broken, revealing wet, bleeding flesh, the meat and bones of Old Milwaukee. This was the city she wanted to see; Milwaukee shoveled aside, layer by layer.
Thursday watched Hyma clumsily tread the tracks. She imagined that God had become frustrated with this bumbling angel who couldn’t focus on the rigorous heavenly rituals and so sent him to Earth to stumble in and out of people’s lives with a hint of admirable lunacy. She wasn’t far off, as I happened to know.
“What’s this all about?” asked Thursday.
“For a couple weeks now, I’ve let you had your fun,” said Hyma. “Partying out all that Mad City drama that you just can’t seem to let go. But you’re not going to fuck strangers and drink yourself to death, not while you’re staying with me.”
Thursday contemplated Hyma’s words while they walked together in silence.
“I haven’t done much for myself, have I?’ she said. “Thought Milwaukee would be like a get away.”
“Thurs, you’re the last person I need to tell that you’re problems follow you wherever you go, but I’m telling you anyway.”
“I know I can pull myself out of all of it,” she said.
“You know? Right,” said Hyma, “You’ve calculated the risks. You’ve made the necessary observations. You have correctly analyzed each one of your issues down to a nub, but you…” Hyma shook his forty at her. “You don’t know fucking know how.”
“You’re like an angel with ADD,” said Thursday.
“And you’re like a pathetic angel who gives away her feathers to every sad, lonely, bluesy fucker she meets on the road.”
“How is being kind and generous pathetic?”
“You’re mistaking your personal sadness and selfish stupidity for generosity. You give away all your feathers, Thurs. You can’t fucking fly, and you’re just as much of a loser as people you try to help.”
“What I’m saying,” said Hyma, “why I dragged your piece of shit ass off that junkie’s mattress, you still wearing clothes from two days ago, is that if you don’t treat yourself right first, you ain’t gonna help no one.
“Sounds like an age-old adage,” said Thursday.
“Well, it fucking applies to you,” said Hyma. “I figure that once you’re good to yourself, nothing is gonna stop you. Why do you think I always beat you up? I was trying to beat some goddamn sense into you.”
Thursday let go a sly smile. “Oh yeah? I always thought you were just trying to fuck me.”
Hyma shook his forty and malt liquor splashed on Thursday’s clothes. “That’s the most fucking disgusting thing I have ever heard.”
Thursday choked a little on her beer and between laughs, she sputtered, “Are you some kind of guardian angel? I mean like a stupidly drunk bumbling guardian angel.”
“All this talk about angels is creeping me out,” said Hyma. “C’mon, you’re gonna meet my business partner. I’ve got other things to take care of tonight, besides you.”
“Where are we going to meet him?”
“She, and we’re going to meet her up in that abandoned mental institution about a mile from here.”
It was the end of February, but the night was still colder than a buttercup in the belly of a frozen wooly mammoth. Thursday left work and began her usual route home. She stopped halfway through and headed northwest, to the train tracks.
In the distant past, there had been plans that would allow tracks to be laid from Chicago to Mad City, but the town, snuggled between two lakes on an isthmus proved too isolated to warrant heavy industrial traffic. Thursday passed what could be considered the train yards many an autumn afternoon watching the slow, slugging cars inch their way over steel tracks, crushing dead leaves and releasing the fresh, crisp scent of damp decay in their wake as they left the isthmus as slowly as they had come upon it, unimpressed, unbothered by the dim lights and cheerful sounds that traveled from the foggy windows of yet another happily mundane town.
She went there now, catching only one train.
She wept heavily, and her tears froze to her lashes and stray strands of hair mingled with the snot spilling from her nose. She felt pangs, little stab wounds all over body, puncturing the steel-enhanced swollen skin that had kept her spirit safe for so many years.
I sat on her shoulder, my legs dangled off her shoulder blade. I turned my head only to see Thursday’s face buried in her scarf. I tried to light a cigarette, the last in my pack, but it was broken at the filter. I sighed and wiped away a single tear with my thumb. It’s not as if I can’t bear to see a lady weep, God knows, cross my heart, that I’ve seen Thursday weep a hundred times over.
Medically, I could piece together a broken heart with some minor shards of plastic, as I have been known to do worldwide. They’ve named fucking hospitals after me, that’s how fucking respected I am. Medically, however, there nothing physically wrong with Thursday’s heart except that it beat too fast every time she laid eyes on whatever it was that was breaking her spirit; though right now, medically, she was experiencing moderate tachycardia, and the swelling of her heart working too damn hard was too much for me. I crumbled my broken cigarette, wiped away my tears, and picked pieces of tobacco off her icy, frozen cheeks.
There were two bars inside the College Bar, the second one used rarely—Friday and Saturday nights. She was bored with her party, a collection of people she was neither interested in nor knew very well. They were friends of Marcus, and Marcus had left quickly, without a goodbye, realizing that he was very drunk.
Thursday was lugging a large paper bag with a shoebox—Heidi’s birthday present. She eyed the second bar, unmanned and stocked full of liquor, and wondered if Heidi might like more than one present.
“Happy Birthday!” Thursday flounced through the door and did a full twirl in her ankle length, gray wool coat with black trimmings she had sewn on herself. “I know we usually drink whiskey and gin, but vodka was all I could get, and some triple sec, oh, and Bailey’s, but that broke on the pavement.”
“What the fuck,” said Heidi. “You brought me booze?”
“Why are there pour spouts on the bottles?” asked Samson.
“You didn’t…” said Heidi, gleeful.
“Six,” said Thursday. “It was all I could carry.”
Armored caterpillars dueling
Too young to be so tired.
Between the first time Thursday saw Jude and the first time they met, there passed a dark, blank year when they barely knew of each other. Both were lost and tired and thought that cutting corners and taking shortcuts would shed some revelation on their destinations in life. Instead, they missed each other on the streets by seconds, a dozen or so instances, too busy looking at the sky or staring at their feet. For years they had abandoned the sight of each other.
Jude had been the last person in Mad City that had made sense to her. When he moved away, Thursday felt as though she had been sucker-punched. There was nothing left in the city to look forward to. The town seemed to shrink and the familiar building facades were hateful and dreary; it all had been just a bad luck fairy tale. A bone-deep weariness crept over her and the only thing she could do to keep from falling apart was to keep moving, constantly moving with grueling shifts at work and long nights with good friends but despairing libations. Even after Jude was long gone, Thursday couldn’t stop moving, she was caught in a vicious, unrelenting routine, and she couldn’t remember how to slow down.
Julian had once told Thursday, after they hadn’t spoken for three years, that the only people worth pursuing were the ones that gave you butterflies in your stomach.
I remembered he had said it just like that, “butterflies in your stomach,” stripping the phrase of its cliché, bringing it back to its bare, sweet imagery that brought a smile to Thursday face, wrinkled with worries.
Personally, the way Julian had said it, forced a vision in my head of moths being extracted from the throats of young, dead women. Of course, Julian had been speaking of his blossoming relationship with Tamara, and not a horror film, though I found them to be one and the same.
Thursday doubted he would have said that if things with Tamara hadn’t finally come together, but she agreed with him anyway. She learned how to drink whiskey from Julian, and she learned how to be smart from Jude, a beaten, ragged angel, broke down from the myriad of lives he had lived before. When Jude left, she forgot how smart she had been, but when she thought about him, real hard, the memories came back and Thursday knew that it was the Jude inside her that told her to never compromise herself, ever. She wished she thought of his strength more often, as her last year in Mad City insofar, had been the blankest year of all.
She saw Peter at the Gypsy Gem Lounge and he pretended not to see her until she went right up to him, tugged his shirt and said hello. Thursday was drunk, horny, and willing to compromise. I leaned back against her left temple, crossed my ankles, casually lighted a cigarette, and softly warned, “don’t do it, babe,” but Thursday decided to take Peter to a show anyway, where Sully let them both in for free with a hug and a kiss from his favorite civilian. Inside, she was exhausted and wanted to go home, but Peter suggested they go to another bar.
“The Wolfhound,” she said. “It’s next door.”
“How about the DA? You like that place, right?”
“Sure,” said Thursday. She removed a pint glass, half full of beer, from her jacket, chugged the last of the beer, and smashed the sixteen-ouncer in the parking ramp, Level 3.
Rufus was tending bar. He greeted her and they exchanged cordialities.
“Is that the guy?” asked Peter, pointing at a group of karaoke singers in the back of the bar. He was picking out a tall blond, likely a rower for the college team.
“The guy you were supposed to be with. You know, the reason you stuck around this shithole of a town.”
She resented the way he described Mad City, her fucking town—his fucking town—his words were unoriginal and stupidly callous. There were few people she knew who could refer to Mad City as a “shithole of a town.”
Those people were the staples of Mad City. They were allowed to be flippant in their disregard. Sure they scoffed aloud at newcomers, and scuffed their only pair of crummy shoes on the dirty, salted winter sidewalks, sucking on half-frozen cigarettes, thoughts of passion, hard luck, disaster, and sadness steeping in their brain pools.
They secured the life-blood of the city. Like mad prophets they walked the streets, drawing the lake waters towards the shore, forming the isthmus, the foundation of their city, and every layer of love, anger, and tenderness in between.
Samson was one of those people. He fed the city and only let the city take from him only what he had already rationed. ****************************
“No. Who told you about that?” asked Thursday, peeved that the tall blonde did resemble her unfortunate romance, but far more irritated that Peter was stupid enough to say something to her he knew nothing about.
“I just heard,” said Peter, shrugging.
“Why would you ask me that?” She stuck the mug of Oil Slick Stout into her jacket. Peter didn’t respond.
She took Peter home anyway, rebelling against her own common sense or in anger against the other man—who would never know and certainly not care—turned up Bob Dylan to maximum volume to cover her own obnoxious sounds, drank more beer and kissed him all over his face. He told her to choke on his dick. She let him fuck her with a condom a male stripper tossed at her at a bachelorette party in the Dells. She let him fuck her to Bob Dylan, the last musician that anyone on earth should fuck to, his screeching voice almost as awful as Thursday’s fake orgasm.
The sex was boring, even I was bored listening to them, and I could tell that Thursday felt like almost as big of an asshole as when she purposefully smashed the pint glass in the parking ramp, Level 3.
“And you fucked him anyway?” Samson was incredulous.
“Samson, it’s been two years. And I hadn’t shaved my legs in like two weeks, or my armpits in like a week, and God only knows—well now Peter does too—what it looks like down there.”
“I haven’t shaved my legs in two weeks,” said Heidi. She lifted her pant leg to reveal downy blond hairs. “Samson doesn’t mind.”
“I like it dirty,” said Samson.
“Sure, but I’m Hispanic so my shit’s wiry.”
“Like barbed wire?”
“Exactly like the barbed wire that kept your people inside Auschwitz.”
“I can’t believe you said your shit’s like barbed wire and then once again made a comparison to the Holocaust. It’s only so funny Thurs, my people suffered.”
“Am I wrong that it keeps Jews away? I don’t see you or Francisco rushing the fence to fuck me.”
“That is fucking disgusting. First off, you’re like my best friend slash sister. Second, I got me a woman. I’m gonna roll this joint and pretend I didn’t hear about how your excess woman hair is as gnarly as barbed wire.”
Heidi grinned. “Lets have a twenty minute conversation about Thursday not shaving, shit’s getting real. Who wants a shot?”
The bartender was smart like Jude, even a little wary, achy and tired like Jude was, but he didn’t know himself as well as Jude did. He was skinny man in a fat boy’s body; he would loudly project charisma and then suddenly, without warning, retreat into the folds of his skin, like a hermit, whenever he felt the doldrums creep in—he didn’t know what to do with all that space inside himself. He used to think like an artist, before people started to pay him mind, forcing him to weave in and out of himself, wondering if anything still fit.
Thursday tried not to think about this as he passed her a bowl of fake weed, a technically legal substance that was supposed to impress the same high. She was trying to hang, I knew, she had her own ways of trying to fit in and tonight she felt the need to impress, so I left her alone.
The bartender got on his knees and looked for the album the three of them had been singing along to—and fighting about lyrics—during the walk
Thursday passed the bowl to Marcus. “I don’t know why it’s not working,” said the bartender, high as hell and unsuccessfully fiddling with his stereo.
“Here, I’ve got it on my iPod,” said Thursday, handing him a red Nano.
She sat down on the curb-picked couch, feeling the drug work her system. The three of them listened to the album all the way through, few words elapsing between them.
Thursday’s eyes moved from Marcus, to her lap, to the bartender, who in his present euphoric state was musing over a drink coaster, made from a photograph of Bob Dylan he had cut out from the album booklet of Another Side of Bob Dylan.
Thursday lifted her glass from Bobby Dylan’s twin coaster, and was confronted by the furrowed, pensive brow of James Dean, the iconic college pin-up boy; he represented a giant that Thursday’s generation did not have.
Sex, whiskey, and weed: a triage of vices in the flesh, a disheveled, all-star starting line-up seated quietly, side-by-side, displaced to the bottom of the order on a couch dragged from a curb-pile of other peoples’ junk,
They pretended to be unaware that these carefully planned escapes had become attractive retreats, total surrender to the only real vice at hand, their self-indulgent misery. Thursday swilled her whiskey and swallowed it with fierce deliberation.
I lighted a cig. Destroying the great minds of her generation.
She wondered if their spiritual movement would ever come, or if it was happening at that very moment as each drank deeply of their own personal sins and inhaled the sticky, heavy curtain of cigarette-hazed humidity that unveiled their most intimate smells.
Thursday escaped her sweaty daze. “It is okay if I sleep on the couch again?” she asked the bartender. She could hear Marcus pissing loudly in the bathroom.
“You can have my bed,” he said. “I’ll take the couch.”
“Nah, I’m alright here,” she said, leaning back. She shoved a canvas pillow over her eyes, ignoring my glances, which I assumed she thought would be judgmental, but weren’t.
June 18, 2017 § Leave a comment
Thursday and I arrived at her bar one chilly night in March. Swinging through the side door with frozen eyelashes, both of us were grateful for the warmly lit interior. The reflections of candles in the mirrors of the liquor shelves gleamed across the laminate protecting a fifty year old bar top. I had always found the bar top of a bar to being particularly telling. A nice, finished piece of solid wood, half of a tree that could fit fifteen or more seats across, promised a comfortable stay.
Our sole intention for the night was to meet some of Thursday’s coworkers in a setting that wasn’t work and that she couldn’t fuck up: with booze. More importantly, with whiskey, her companion, confidante, and general demoralizing drug that she continued to use as if she desired to batter herself. I, myself, was never much good with abusing drugs, but whiskey and bourbon, those caramel-colored beverages meant to be enjoyed on the rocks or straight up, were Thursday’s true friends. Although they often knocked her ass-backwards or straight into a pillow full of tears, they allowed her to neglect the shy, anxious facet of her personality and to make friends, a lot of them.
In her later years, like with most adults, these drinks remained friendly to her, but only in great moderation. This was one of those unfortunate years where moderation could not hold a candle to the long awaited and well-earned Tolerance.
The guy behind the bar I recognized from a couple of days before when he slipped by me on his way out the door. He was Korean, but raised American. He was about Thursday’s height with long dark hair with a slight goatee.
I let Thursday make her introduction. “I’m Thursday,” she said. “I’m new.”
“Brent,” he said, shaking her hand. “I think I saw you the other day when I was here. What are you having?”
“A whiskey diet and a shot of well bourbon in a bucket, neat.”
Brent pushed the glass of whiskey and diet soda over to her on a coaster. Thursday passed me the bourbon.
When you order rail, you’re allowed to mix it with anything because in most bars, the rail isn’t even real bourbon. It’s like a hybrid of gasoline enhanced moonshine, some no-name cleaning product that was probably banned from shelves in the 80s, and caramel color number-something. Example? Old Thompson.
If you want to commit a slow, painful suicide through evisceration of the insides, or perform a general yearly detox, drink a liter of Old Thompson. As you set down the bottle or tumbler, notice how the bastard rips the finish right off your mahogany table and then think about what it’s doing to your insides. Step away from the bottle and go find something to mix it with. Gatorade is not the best choice for whiskey, but in extreme circumstances it will do the trick. Thursday learned this several years ago when she lived alone. She used to tell people that she lived alone because she could drink all she wanted and no one would judge her. I got a laugh out of it a couple of times and even overused the line myself for a while. But now, even I don’t find it funny anymore. Thursday only uses the line when she can’t think of anything to say.
The tubs in this bar were perfectly cylindrical, no ridges or clefts. I found this annoying as my fingers had nothing to concentrate on while I sat quietly and listened to Thursday strike up a conversation with Brent and two customers.
One of the men has shaved his head to remove all doubt of premature balding. He had bright blue eyes and also a well-trimmed goatee. He was certainly the most talkative of the three and I was suddenly and not-so-pleasantly reminded of the inner-workings of foodies and their troubles. The conversation of the night so far had been stuck on work, glued to the frightful topic. Tonight, Thursday and I listened once more to the topic of the one idiot who always seemed to be in charge at every restaurant.
It seemed to me, according to the conversation at hand, that if this one idiot were simply swiftly dismembered and their insides served up in vodka sauce and penne to only the most heinous of customers, that all things would return to their rightful place in Restaurant Utopia.
Aside from that one idiot, and his or her kiss-ass minions, most of the other staff was perfectly acceptable, though only a few really outshone the rest as far as stellar-everything goes and these few would explode into a fucking supernova of personality and customer-service oriented godliness if only so-and-so wasn’t such a fucking cunt whose ass should have been fired six months ago.
And of course, Chris, Brent’s bright-eyed bald friend was a fucking supernova, and Brent could be too if he joined the auspicious ranks of the prestigious downtown French restaurant that most foodies around here just called “the Toilet.”
I had heard that the food at the Toilet was actually amazing, its unfortunate moniker stemming from the disgust of rest of the downtown service folk getting goddamned tired of the elite little brick and white trimmed building with mortar made of cherub bones, a kitchen boasting ovens forged by Hephaestus, and a head chef that used only locally sourced organic ambrosia pretending that they were in goddamn New York City. Unfortunately for the local greasy spoon, mom and pop places, this trend would take the nation by storm within a few years.
I was surprisingly hammered by the time Chris and Brent wrapped up their conversation, luckily they were equally drunk and didn’t notice that I was now drinking from a flask. Brent had locked the doors and it was just the four of us.
“Can I make us a drink?” Thursday asked.
“Go for it,” said Brent, lifting the hinged bar top.
Thursday climbed up on the counter for a moderately priced bottle of Scotch and Creme de Cassis. Casually, Brent brushed his hand against her ass, acting as though he were spotting her. “Wow, you are really fit,” he said.
“Well, I do try to workout,” said Thursday. “I’m no spring-chicken anymore.”
“You’re a dangerous creature to have around,” said Chris, adding a bit of lemon juice to his margarita, no doubt to complete the palate of flavors. “Those hips, those lips, those eyes…”
Eyes don’t lie and neither Brent nor Chris saw Thursday roll hers to the back of her sockets. I could tell Thursday had wished they would refer to her personality rather than her assets. Such was life in the bar business.
During their first meeting, Chris and Brent would remember Thursday as cheerful and exotic. Their eyes were on her all through resetting the alarm, re-locking the doors, and as they all waved and went their separate ways. They would not remember her as bored out of her skull. In about the same amount of time it takes for a particle of dust to blow upwards and then settle, Thursday had already decided that both men were impossibly boring. She had a particular deficit, which had not cost her any friends as of yet, but only because she manicured her attentions with booze, that made it nearly impossible for her to be around people for long periods of time. Her attention would wander, thinking about castles, sleeping under the northern lights, or wondering why a certain leaf looked like a penis when his brothers all looked like starfish. Funny that it only happened when she was around people.
August 4, 2011 § Leave a comment
Everyone has the one, or rather two, three, four, five friends who don’t know when they’ve had one too many Vodka Tonics. Hell we’ve all been that friend at some point. They embarrass you. They give away your phone number for you. They try to play matchmaker and set you up with people you don’t know and are not interested in, or worse they pick fights with strangers and insult people they have never met. They become a sobbing machine. They like to think that they are so sly that the bartender won’t notice if they sneak around the bar and pour themselves a beer–and then you all get kicked out. “Fuck that place,” they say, “let’s go somewhere else.”
On to the next bar where they scream “PIZZA NOW!” at the top of their lungs. They get upset if
the Phillies their baseball team loses an incredibly unimportant game and scream at the TV. They fight you when you try to get them away from the 50 something or older man who keeps saying, while patting their shit faced bottom, “What’s young and what’s old? Age is only a number.”
You’re right old man, age is only a number. And as far as your duty as a friend is concerned, the most important number, is the thread count of those nasty-ass sheets they will wake to, face first and drooling if they don’t get their faded ass into that cab that’s waiting ASAP.
Here are some tips to cut off your friends when you feel they are just too drunk to hack it.
If you’re the one accompanying your friend on their slutty, drunken rampage:
- Try to convince the bartender to do all of the below without directly telling your friend that they’re cut off. No one likes to be cut off.
- Tell them you’re leaving and go to another bar.
- Take a cab, drop them off first, and go back to the bar.
- Take pictures of them doing things you know they’ll regret and show them the pictures the next day. This is a guaranteed self-guilt cut-off for at least a couple of days.
- Ask the bartender to straight up fucking cut them off. Tip them well because your friend probably won’t.
- Tell the guy at the end of the bar that your friend thinks he’s really cute and that she’s just really shy. Make sure you buy the suffering bastard a nice drink.
- Call their boyfriend or girlfriend to come pick them up.
- Take their cash out of their wallet so they can’t/won’t buy the next drink. Replace it right before they leave (coat pocket, purse, floor, etc.)
If you’re the one behind the bar:
The basic tricks:
- Give them food.
- Give them water.
- Give them cigarettes.
The awesome tricks:
- If your friend is paying with a credit card: Tell your friend at some point that your boss is likely to come in and you need to “authorize” their credit card to open a tab so he/she doesn’t think you’re dodging “the rules.” Swipe it, run it, and then tell them it declined. Hopefully they’ll get worried about their money and leave. Wink at them and tell them you got their drinks covered (hell, you were gonna throw them a few anyway) If they ask you later why it went through, shrug and say, “I dunno, credit cards are flaky sometimes.” They will nod and agree. Everyone has had a credit card issue and they will be thankful that their card “declined” in front of a friend and saved them the embarrassment of not having money for a stranger.
- Slowly lessen the amount of booze in their drinks to almost zero.
- What if they comment on the taste? If they sip their drinks through a straw, dip the end of the straw in their chosen alcohol but don’t put much in their drinks. If they drink without straws, float some alcohol on top. This way the first thing to hit their lips is the burning of a strong drink.
- Tell them you made their drinks with Top-Shelf alcohol and that’s why they can’t taste the astringent, grain alcohol you have for well liquor. Only the best for your buddies. “If my boss found out I’d get fired for sure.”
- Mix their beer with lemonade and tell them that “Shandy’s made with Mike’s Hard Lemonade are super popular right now.”
- Write something down in your the bar’s log book (if you have one, and you should) while staring directly at your friend and “the hidden camera in the corner.” This will instill a sense of paranoia.
- Tell them their tab is much higher than it actually is. “I served you like 12 beers, dude. Man, can you drink.” This will make them feel awesome and think that they could maybe hold back a little if they don’t want to black out right away.
- Tell your other friends that it’s time for so-and-so to leave and it’s best to go quietly.
The most important thing is to make your friend feel like they still had a good night. Of course, there are circumstances where nothing much else can be done but to tell them to stop being an asshole.
These notions could brand me as the friend to never go out drinking with OR I’ll be a party-saver for those who can handle their booze.
June 6, 2011 § Leave a comment
Be Creative. Your house has many assets and perks. Highlight them. Draw attention to the crevices. Bring light to the shadows.
Write an Ad for Craigslist:
Are you a Serial Killer?
Homicidal maniacs, psychopaths, murderers, suburban death squads (or sobriquet of your preference) are all invited to check out this local, organic Last House on the Right…of a cul-de-sac, no less, in none-too-quaint small-town Minnesota.
The four-acre plot:
- Dozens of trees to shade your nightly habits (All quiet on the Northwestern front is a guarantee!)
- 1 Swamp—corpses are easily mummified in peat
- 2 Wood Sheds—one for stacking and one for sawing (be aware that one has better acoustics than the other)
- 1 Garage (with rafters!)
- 1 broke down mini van comes free for extra “storage”
- 4 acres of your own personal cemetery
- 1 personal sewage tank underground in the back yard (disguises whatever noxious smells you may induce)
The first floor of the house is all white, ceramic tile flooring for easier cleanup and a fireplace to boot! And there are, not three, but five bedrooms for every stage of torture you’d like to arrange. Start small, but aim big–H.H. Holmes 1893 Chicago World’s Fair big.
The Neighborhood: White, suburban, upper-middle class families with plenty of children to go around for those of you partial to morsels rather than meals. Trust me, these people won’t be missed. Just two miles down the road police found body parts in a field—and three years later they haven’t a clue.
Your Street: One of the neighbors on the street deals meth or heroin or something—I’m sure you two can shake on something mutually beneficial. The other neighbors are old, cranky, half-deaf, blind, rat-poisoning dog killers who hate children. The last thing they’ll be is meddlesome. The local law enforcement accepts CASH only. Make sure you bargain, they’re none too bright (aforementioned anonymous body parts).
Appraised at 180,000: a great deal in hard economic times, especially considering the suburban boom. Make the ‘Burbs come to life again! Give ’em something to gossip about.
Together we can transform Minnesota into the new “We Eat People” state! Twins/Brewers, Vikings/Packers, Gophers/Badgers—let the rivalries continue and the body count rise…for real this time.
Disclaimer: This is a rough draft.