Friday, January 21, 2011

The Polecat

It started off being the usual 'friends getting together' type of thing - ten or so people sitting in a casual circle chatting in groups of two and three. Most slouched in old metal folding chairs similar to what you'd find at a garage sale for half a buck, while a few claimed the two upholstered pieces shoved into the far corners. Under normal circumstances I would have never sat in the sagging, foul-smelling chair due to my raging phobia of picking up lice, but as bad luck would have it the chair was mine.

As there was no one seated to my direct left or right (possibly due to the wisps of reek emanating from the cushions) I had the advantage of avoiding the chitchat and just observed. Everyone else seemed connected and comfortable, keeping their voices low and their heads bowed together as they conversed, appearing unaware of the filthy carpet, nicotine stained walls and crud encrusted 60 watt bulb encased in a dead insect tomb of a light fixture. Only I, sitting there perched on the very edge of my seat in an attempt to come in contact with as little fabric as possible, seemed to have pestilence on the brain.

Movement in the vicinity of my right foot caused me to startle and shift all the way back in the chair, instantly provoking a mad rush to wildly fluff my hair to dislodge the parasites. Fingers tangled and caught above my head, I felt it scurry up my leg, claw its way up the front of my shirt and nestle beneath my chin. Surprisingly I didn't scream. Even when the biting started I was silent, my only thought being "Why is no one watching?" "This has to be more interesting than what they're all talking about."
Rainbow explosions pop harmlessly against the low gray clouds in an orange fourth of July skyscape. Orange? The ordinary black backdrop of this patriotic evening has, for the moment, been replaced. I look down at the brick floor of my patio, thinking about nothing at all, my mind a post-apocalyptic-ly boring landscape.
"Oh my god..." Kelly's stunned whisper-shout reaches my ears through a thick haze, "...they've dropped the bomb."
My face snaps vertical. I've always feared nuclear holocaust. There are a few ways I don't want to die, and this is one of them.
There's no need to scan the horizon - I immediately ascertain that many miles in the distance, beneath the sparkling rockets, is an ominous ashen mushroom cloud.
"Where is that?" the words practically dribble off my lips. I'm thinking about which places might be appealing to blow up, wondering why L.A. wasn't the first choice. I'm worried for Kelly, and my family. I'm worried that I won't survive, and the darkly ironic implications of America's national holiday being nuked are not lost on me.
I want to reassure Kelly, but no words come out.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

the corner of the student union

Working in a school, where the students stay the same age and I get older, has given me an odd sensation. Even while sitting alone at a table in the corner of the student union working on coffee, my physical body is slowly drifting back from everything before me while my view is magnifying to a greater extent. I've been double-crossed by a seemingly good-hearted mentor, who inspired me enough to take up teaching, and a feeling of dread is working its way up my back, straightening my spine and fusing all its joints. I turn my neck to look behind me and there is nothing. The world is falling into the back of my head, which is now unbearably heavy and pressed sideways against some stone pillar.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Dentist's Office

Scraps of broken buildings lay landpiled everywhere like bodies of dead whales, hunked and white. I needed to get home. People on all sides of me strove forth leaning, dogged like swimmers through a sudden city downpour.

A stranger came in front of me and leaned up to look into my face. His hair buffed out black, cloudy, his eyes white, slick and clayfaced, and he muttered some plangent sound at me but he was clearly underwater, and I could not hear him. Nevertheless he grabbed my hand and led me down the street as if it was now his way we were taking. He yanked on my wrist and it hurt me with that uncomfortable slip that wet skin has against anything. I struggled pettily. The wet was thick, and grabbed my feet.

He brought me to the dentist's office, a white ramshackle half-hexagon kind of place with chipped rose moldings and walls paneled with whitewash now peeling, showing black. A roaring wind was in there, and the wet man shouted in my face to never go where I was going, but I fought against the wind. A plaque on the wall screamed SSSSHHH at me and I reached the door, the carpet squirting under my feet. The man blew out the other frame, a white wind sucking up a handkerchief, and as I crossed the threshold in the black night all was still.

Write about a dream (without saying "I dreamed").

"They're bunnies," the skinny guy said. He had the brown clothes, the brown truck. "Everyone likes bunnies. For one rabbit, we sell six bunnies. Sign here." He tapped his clipboard with the pen. They were hopping on each other, pinkish, on my porch, crowding the door, open a few inches. The lawn was covered with them, you couldn't see the grass. I kicked one back with my boot.

The guy gave me a look. "That one has a heart condition," he said, and touched his chest. "He can't take much stress." I looked at his name, above his pocket, embroidered: N. But when I looked again, it said: Nikolai. It's my name, I thought.

-Steven Barthelme, Nice Boy (Gulf Stream Magazine #3)

Hi from the Herkimer!

This week, write about a dream, but don't say "I dreamed." Make it as real as possible.

The weirder, the better.

Write with guts!

Pink bunnies, surprise oceans, and a strange sense of urgency,