Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving: The World is Going to End

Happy Thanksgiving. Too bad there's a runaway greenhouse effect in the atmosphere and all of your children's children will be mutants. Let us give thanks.

We are in the middle of one of the largest mass extinctions ever. Let us give thanks that nobody will know what an elephant is in the future. An elephant will be a mythical creature, like a dragon or a unicorn. That's cool, though.

America is sinking beneath a massive pile of political apathy and cultural detritus. Let us give thanks that the public education system will eventually collapse, and literacy will be a thing of the past. They'll still have movies in the future though, right? Well then, who cares.

Maybe there will come a comet, or an asteroid, and it will wipe out all the life on earth, and we can skip out on being held responsible. That would be sweet. Or there's a supervirus due to rampant antibiotic abuse and it kills nearly everyone, and then the world is like the Walking Dead, only without the zombies. That would be so cool. We could walk around in cowboy boots and shoot six-shooters and just do whatever the hell we want without any repercussions. There will be gang fights, rape, and brutal murder just like in a video game. I can't wait.

This is undoubtedly the best time to be a human being in the history of civilization. Let us give thanks that it's all about to come to an abrupt end. We've had it too easy. This whole cycle of pollution and genocide needs some sort of suitable conclusion. A denouement, to use a fancy French word. Maybe in a million years another advanced life form will pick at our ashes and discover that we invented algebra, guitars, and Internet cat videos. Perhaps they'll find evidence of our sophistication, like a charred copy of Entertainment Weekly or a DVD of Ancient Aliens.

Let us give thanks for our mortality, which enables our short-sightedness. It's difficult to plan beyond the time frame of a few years. Fuck it all, you know? I won't be around to see the wasteland my children's children will call home. They can rest in craters and suck on cockroaches for all I care. If life is a struggle, then things are how they should be.

Let us give thanks for reality tv. Let us give thanks for our two political parties. They do a good job. Let us give thanks for minimum wage, tv dinners, credit cards, patriotism, football, and fake titties. Internet porn, too. Don't forget Internet porn.

Happy Thanksgiving, ghost children of the future. You'll probably be eating buzzard instead of turkey. Merry Christmas. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Esteemed Critic Plays Dark Souls 2

The initial time I encountered this noble creature, I thought nothing of it. The beast gave me an item and some puzzling words, but then of course, the internet had to intervene and inform me that this ancient dragon is an optional boss, and Dark Souls 2 is all about destroying bosses, so I complied and struck the poor fellow repeatedly until he grew hostile. The area around us is an aerie for lesser dragons, who roost on rocky outcroppings that rise miles above the land. It is one of the most visually striking places in the game, in environ whose beauty belies the frustration that awaits any would-be challenger. Suffice it to say that the ancient dragon destroyed me with one blast of its fiery breath. That was fine: one dies to bosses on the initial encounter all the time, though it is a slog battling one's way back from the bonfire through a horde of powerful stone knights and dragon warriors. But then I died again, and again, and again, so many times that I started ignoring the lesser enemies and running for the fog gate, which resulted in even more deaths, until I concentrated on methodically killing them, for after ten kills or so, they stop respawning, rendering the path more or less clear. The dragon, however, was not having any of my plan. He is a deceptively simple creature; all one must do is linger around his left forelimb, striking it and then venturing out in front of his shaggy head to bait his breath attack. He will half-heartedly swipe at you with his right paw, but this attack is easy to avoid. The problem is that he will very-occasionally flap his great wings and take to the skies, and then you'd better haul ass, because he lets loose with an area of effect flame blast that will kill you unless you have the grym shield, a heavy rock-like thing that has one-hundred percent flame resistance. But you must have great stamina to wield it; if you get caught directly beneath the wall of flames, nothing will save you. The health pool of this monster is also great; so large that my large club + 10 was degrading through the fight. My only strategy was to strip off my armor (if you get hit, you're dead anyway), revealing my dead, decaying flesh, and equip a greatsword to use as backup. Still I died and died, for one mistake and the beast has your soul. We battle upon a flat tower with precipitous ledges, and many times I killed myself running away from the dragon. The fight took on a religious significance for me--every thing that opposed me in life became the dragon. I died and respawned at the bonfire, my health reduced, evidence of my failure mounting. Still I climbed the steps. I whittled him down to twenty-percent health. My clumsy fingers failed me, and I did not block a flame blast in time. I died. I mounted the steps again. I was persistence; the beast could do nothing but wait for me, it had no refuge, no shelter, no respite. I died, but this time, his health pool was almost depleted. No more mess-ups. No more failures. I wacked at his great forelimb, two-handing my giant sword. He is like a tree that refuses to be felled. But persistence is rewarded, and eventually he succumbs after numerous attempts. I am rewarded with a petrified dragon bone and a soul of a giant. Where is the dragon's soul? Is the creature a fraud, a ruse, a forgery? Were my labors wasted on a fake?

Dark Souls 2: 6 out of 10. Remarkable combat, life-lessons, but it's still a video game, and we don't award perfect scores to video games because we are a snob.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Diary of Mitch R. Singer

At the bar in Philly, the place I call home
I sweep and clean the toilets, and in the basement, I beat the rats to death with my beloved club. My coworkers are sociopaths, narcissistic morons who will do anything for fame and fortune. Our bar is frequented by alcoholics, homeless people, and ladies of the night. My father, whom I live with, owns the bar, and will come down on his fat, squat legs and berate me for not eating garbage with him. He is a troll, a creature better suited to sleeping in a sewer than walking on dry land. You have to pay the toll, you have to pay the toll...sometimes, I sniff too much glue and I cannot remember who I am, or what I am supposed to do. In the night, my dreams tell me that this is just another short stop, a brief sojourn on a journey that will last eons. I take solace in this as I kill rat after rat, my club raining down justice on them. But who am I to judge? Are their lives really worth any more than ours?

In a New York apartment
The sitcom lights burn down on me from somewhere up above. I am in a suit and tie, as I am wont to do. My best friend is complaining about how he cannot get a date; all he seems to do is complain about women. He doesn't realize that he is in love with the married one, the tall, goofy roommate he has lived with since college. I would love to bang his wife, but that is how I communicate with women. I cannot divorce myself from the sexual element, and this has begun to worry me. In my pocket there is a tally of all the women I have slept with. It numbers in the hundreds. I often wonder if there is anything I wouldn't do to sleep with a women, and I come to the conclusion that no, there is not. The city will crumble, as all great cities do, and all I will be left with is my list and scattered memories, some of which I wish would lie buried. It is time to go play laser tag.

In a Seattle apartment
My brother and I argue about an obscure Italian opera that neither of us really knows much about. Our father, a disabled police veteran, sits in his hideous easy chair and tries to drown us out with the television volume. His dog, whom I fear is becoming sentient, stares at us from across the room, his eyes sending dark designs. I pour my brother and I glasses of sherry, and I observe him ogling our English house keeper. My brother is in deep denial about his homosexuality. So am I, I suppose.


In a New York coffee shop
I sit and listen to my short, bald friend, and I realize that he is the worst person I have ever met. His pathetic schemes grow crazier by the day; his inability to relate with other human beings is beyond depressing. My neighbor comes by and tells us about the garbage disposal he installed in his shower. One day, they will find him in a gutter, naked, with strange messages tattooed on his chest. My arch- nemesis, a rotund postal employee, passes by the window, his hands stuffing mail into a trash can. All I do is make pithy observations. What else can I do?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Terrible Comedian Would Like You to Laugh at His Jokes

What's up, people. How's it hanging in the ghetto? I got out of my Mercedes and saw two black guys hanging out at the entrance, and I was like, "shit, are they gonna rob me?" I see you two fellas are in the front row. I hope you brought your laughing hats with you. Be sure to not take the stickers off the bills. Hey guys, thanks for not robbing me. I know it probably crossed your mind, hah.

So has anyone been on an airplane lately? What's up with all the crappy food? I mean, do they really think anyone's going to eat processed fish and vegetable lasagna? I mean, the vegans and the lesbians might. You sir, or ma'am, what do you say? You look like you might be a lesbian or a vegan. You look like Michael Stipe after three months of chemo. Oh shit, you really have cancer? Sucks to be you.

So my girlfriend has this thing about oral sex. She won't do it. Says it's gross and demeaning. I'm like "Suck my dick, baby! God wouldn't have given you a mouth and me a penis if he didn't mean for you to suck it." I actually called my priest and had him try to talk her into giving me a blow job. He tried to tell me that there's no passage in the Bible supporting oral sex. "Good thing I'm Jewish!" I told him. She still won't suck my dick.

Boy, this is kind of a hard crowd tonight. What's eating you guys? Were you expecting Jeff Dunham and a puppet with his hand up its ass? Would somebody like to come up here and be my puppet? I have a lube, hah.

If I had come out in a plaid, sleeveless shirt and a camo hat, would I be getting a different response? You guys look like you might appreciate a good redneck joke. Well, except for you black people. Some of that stuff's racially insensitive. You guys don't have much of a sense of humor unless I'm dropping the F-bomb continuously like Chris Rock. "Motherfucker this, motherfucker that." I try to keep my stuff fun for all ages. Motherfuckers.

Hey now, no need to throw shit. That bottle almost hit me in the forehead. How am I supposed to entertain you if I'm being pelted with glass? Do you poor sonsabitches not know how to watch a comedy show? Hope you're not pissed about the ten dollar cover charge. Maybe next time I'll up it to twenty to weed out some of you bad seeds. Oh shit, did I say "weed?" Now you guys are getting overly excited. I didn't say that I had any weed. You lazy pieces of shit.

All right, all right, I think this show's over. You assholes want to boo and throw shit, you can do that to each other. You're missing out on the best part of my routine. I had some knock-knock jokes to tell. But seriously, go fuck yourselves. I'm outta here.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Songs Your Mother Taught Us: Sado

Welcome to Hell

Welcome to Hell, soul number 143,346,765,890,123,445. We hope you enjoy your eternal torment. Everything in Hell is done with the utmost care and professionalism. We are not how the living perceive us.

Please fill out these forms. Yes, there are a lot of them. 145,990,901,230 to be exact. Please write legibly in print. If you have any questions, Amanda the Succubus will help you. If you feel your energy levels draining, just step away from her for a few moments. She can't help it.

Looks like you're heading to the cube farm. You're lucky, my friend. You got a nice, cushy paper-pushing job. You could've been sent to Tartarus to endure the abyss, but instead, you get to work on one of our lucrative business contracts. Thank your lucky stars you're not an oarsman on the river Styx. Those guys get no benefits and no time off. They never get to see their families.

Oh, so you're single? You should check out one of the night clubs downtown. The lights are bright, the music too loud, and the drinks exorbitantly expensive. But listen, I'm going to offer you some non-professional advice: You should wear protection. The STD rate in Hell is ridiculous. Everybody's got something, is what I'm saying. You don't want to spend eternity covering up a herpes outbreak.

Some more advice: Suck up to your boss. Looks like Andy Rooney's your supervisor. He's just as curmudgeonly in Hell as he was in life. Suck his dick. We are a little more literal in Hell than the living world. Those who get ahead have to work hard, and sometimes that means chowing down on old man penis. Just be glad you didn't get an actual demon as your superior. Sodomy Tuesdays are a real thing, let me tell you.

One last thing--pick a religion before you start work. Everyone's very religious in Hell. It helps to be as delusional as possible. It makes the eternal torment a little easier. The Fundamentalist Baptists are always a popular choice, though it never hurts to embrace your new lifestyle and become a Satanist. Just don't become a Mormon. It's lonely. Most of those guys get stuck in Heaven.

Here's the key to your apartment. You're in the downtown district; how nice. Your roommate is a one-legged midget who eats human flesh. He's a nice guy, I've worked with him before. You're starting out ahead here, buddy. Good luck.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Internet Ad Bot Presents: Black Friday Deals and Steals

Ad Bot beginning transmission...

Smoking hot Black Friday deals are already hitting the net. You can buy a 50 inch flatscreen television for pennies. Get the latest smartphone for a vial of blood. We need your blood this year. It's valuable.

Xboxes and Playstations are cheap, cheap, cheap. Buy one or three in order to keep your brood placated. Give them the vapid electronic entertainment they deserve. If they're not spouting racist epithets on internet while teabagging a fallen enemy, then you've failed as a care-giver. Buy little Mickey an XBone to ensure his complete development as a person. Get him a smartphone while you're at it so that he'll never be bored. If he's not busy at all times, he might reflect on his station in life, or do some free thinking, and that would be criminal. We're raising the next generation of meat, here, people. This is a post-rational age.

Let's get all the Christmas shopping done while the deals are here. Get your wife something that she doesn't need, like maybe sexy underpants. Buy little Bobo a fish hat so he'll have something to wear when he's out dynamiting the lake. Your dog could use nutritional supplements. Gotta keep that coat nice and shiny.

Buy someone a Lexus. It'll be a November to remember. Gourmet coffee is currently on sale. Gourmet coffee is worth suplexing a stranger over, right? If a talking Elmo is worth punching a woman in the face, then gourmet coffee is certainly worth fighting for. These people are soft, you understand. They don't have what it takes to get a great deal.

You were raised to take what's yours, and you'll be damned if somebody's going to beat you out of a boxed set of animated Disney films. Your little princess deserves to watch an exaggerated female caricature with eyes as large as dinner plates and a three inch waist. She needs an ideal to aspire to as she matures.

Charcoal grills are going for twenty bucks, but that bastard got the last one. Good thing you brought a bedpost. Fucker didn't have a chance. Went down like a sack of flour.

You've achieved quite the bodycount, but at least your Christmas shopping is finished. You spent under one-hundred dollars, and you feel like a million bucks. Junior will be pleased to know that his copy of Grand Theft Auto 5 was bought with blood. Merry fucking Christmas.

Ad Bot Ending transmission... 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Thank You for Drinking Your Kool Aid

Thank you for drinking your Kool Aid. It was sweet, wasn't it? Cool and delicious like a mountain stream? Did you get enough sugar? We can always make more. There is always more.

How about you come over here and sit next to us on the couch. There are things we would like to show you. Beautiful things. Shiny objects that will catch your eye. We have secrets we would like to reveal about the universe. About the meaning of life. Just have another glass of Kool Aid, please. Ignore any faces you see behind the glass.

So now that you've had two glasses, let's talk. What do you think about astral projection? Did Oswalt kill JFK? Does the government know about extraterrestrial life? What do you think about the Zionist conspiracy?

Oh, we're sorry. The Kool Aid must not be taking effect. You're giving us that look we so often get. Please, drink some more. It's hard for us to recruit nowadays, especially considering that lawsuit that legal is handling. Would you like to go on a cruise in the future? You could work on one of our luxury ships. It's a pseudo-military organization. You get to drink Kool Aid everyday and wear snazzy uniforms. It's a blast.

Oh, yes, you can leave if you want. If you want to put the fate of the galaxy and your personal soul at risk, that's up to you. Trillions of years ago, a struggle occurred that is still going on today. Big-tittied sex aliens from Alpha Centari were rounded up by the evil Reptilian Empire and shot into a star. The star super-novaed and all those displaced souls were scattered across the universe. That's why we have diseases and bad people. The remnants of that ancient genocide reverberate even today. You must be possessed by one of those big-tittied aliens. Otherwise, you'd believe us.

Drink one more glass of Kool Aid. If you say anything about what we've told you today, we're going to sue the pants off of you. Literally. Like, you won't have any pants because we've taken all of your money. So you might as well drink some more. Maybe you'll see things our way. Buddy.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Least Interesting Man in the World

Howdy, strangers. Well, winter has finally set in. That means it's time to get out my enormous collection of sweaters. Gotta hope that this winter won't be as crazy as the last. Gosh darn, it got cold last winter! I had a pipe freeze. Had to call a plumber. Boy, that was expensive. That was a little too much excitement, if you know what I mean.

Boy, strangers, I haven't been up to a lot. Still working the same old job. My boss told me to can it yesterday before I even spoke a word. Seems that he doesn't like my chipper attitude. He's something of a sourpuss, really, though I'd never say that to his face. I'm not sure what his problem is. I work hard, from eight to five. I stay late when he requests me to. I don't sexually harass the women like some of my fellow employees. If you ask me to work on a task, you know I'm going to get it done. Really, I should be getting a promotion by now. But that's not the way the world works, now, is it?

One of the neighborhood children has taken to pooping in my lawn. Right smack dab in the middle of it. I saw him do it once. He just moseyed to the center of the yard, dropped his pants, got down in a squat, and took a poop. I was too flabbergasted to do anything. He didn't even bring toilet paper or anything, just pulled up his pants when he was finished and went over to his friends and gave them a high five. I'll let that sink in for a moment. He didn't wash his hands, folks. I think that was the most shocking thing about the whole incident.

What should I do about this strange development? Should I put a toilet out there for him? Leave a roll of toilet paper and hand soap? Some of you might suggest lying in wait for the pooper, armed with a BB gun or some other relatively harmless armament. I'm not sure I could do it, though. I don't want the neighborhood kids to dislike me. Plus, it wouldn't matter. The neighborhood dogs are all defecating in my yard now. They come in droves, all types: poodles, German shepherds, pit bulls, Labradors, pugs, dachshunds, mutts. They all come to poop, perhaps compelled by the same phantom that motivates my neighborhood children. My yard is resembling a gigantic toilet. I can't step a foot on the grass without encountering a pile of feces.

I sit on the porch, when it is warm enough, and watch. The dogs pay me no mind. The continue with their business, resolution on their furry faces. They do the deed and leave. Why me? I ask the wind. It answers in strange words I cannot comprehend.

Well, I sure hope the weather gets warmer this week. It's a little chilly for November.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Grandma Howard's Thoughts and Prayers

Oh my. It seems my nice grandchildren have left the computer on. I am blessed. I don't know how to turn the infernal contraption on, and usually when it is running, I can't interrupt the bouncing ribbons on the screen without a little box asking for a password coming up. I thought I would use this opportunity to let everyone know what I'm thinking, and to whom my prayers go out to.

First I'd like to complain about the direction today's youth are heading in. My grandson Trent, whose friends call him "Shifty", is into the heavy metal music, as well as the hippity hop. When he plays that noise, the whole house shakes, which isn't good, because we have an unstable foundation due to the incessant tunneling of gophers, and we're about one extra tunnel away from having the whole place collapse. He's also taken to dressing in torn black clothing, putting rings in his nostrils, and speaking with Satan. I tried to have a priest come into the place to exorcise him, but the Reverend wouldn't go past the doorstep, because Trent had a girlfriend in his room, and they were making all sorts of racket. I chased the hussy out with a broom and gave Trent a good smack on the face, but the Reverend had left by then. I fear I'll lose the respect of the church due to the behavior of my grandson. But what can I do? He is possessed.

My other grandchildren are no better. Artemus drinks himself into a stupor every weekend, and then expects me to clean up the vomit. I made him sleep in the car last night. Let him wallow in his own filth for a while, and see that he doesn't clean up his act. An adult man like him ought to have a wife and a decent job by now. His brother Dwight is no better. He works at a pet store training dogs. Can you imagine a college graduate doing such work? He just doesn't apply himself. They're all like their father, who's living on an Indian reservation out in Arizona with a Swedish woman. He sent me a postcard and his hair was hanging down to his bottom. He looked like a fat Indian. I tell you, I just don't know where I went wrong. Heaven help me.

I'd like to include in my prayers this week the entire cast of Golden Girls. I don't know how those ladies are doing, but they've given me years of quality entertainment from the comfort of my home. Lord, please bless Betty White, as well as my grandson Trent, who needs the Holy Spirit in his heart to displace all the evil the devil has put there. Lord, I also ask that you hold our walls together and prevent the gophers from further destabilizing our foundations. Please, bring my son home to me, and don't let him turn into a fat Indian. Also, please let my cats find their way home. I don't know what I'd do without all fourteen of them.

Grandma Howard

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Dream Therapy with Doctor Niles Frasier

You are to do exactly as I say. Lie back in your chair and try to make yourself comfortable. Good. Please place your hands on your chest, fingers entwined. Clear your mind of any debris. It is to be a blank slate. Tabula Rasa. Your job does not matter. Your mortgage payments do not concern you. The words and actions of your spouse are inconsequential. Your sexual inadequacies, at the moment, are not relevant. You are gliding on an ocean of blackness. You do not move, yet a strong force pulls you along, an invisible current. You find yourself sliding into unconsciousness. You welcome it, for there is no reason to fight. You fall asleep.

You are having a dream now. The ocean of blackness transforms into a humid jungle. You rise from your slumber and find yourself deep in the Congo. Daylight struggles to pierce through the heavy canopy. Something is rustling in the bush, a large, aggressive animal. Behind you is a river with a fast moving current. You will drown if you dive into the river. The underbrush is too thick to penetrate on your left and right. The only path is forward. The animal approaches, its footsteps ponderous, its utterances terrifying. It is something deep and dark, spawned from the imagination of horror. You fear that if you see it, you will die of fright. What do you do, my friend? Do you stay to face the beast? Do you try to fight it? There is a stick lying on the ground. It looks like a formidable weapon. It might fend off the creature, provided you wield it appropriately. Do you dare to pick it up? Remember, the river lies behind you. It is a means of escape, though you will certainly perish if you enter its rushing waters. Surely a demise by drowning will be more pleasant than whatever the monster has in store for you. You must consider the options, my friend. All your life you have dwelt in the shadow of your demons. You are indecisive and weak. A thing of your nightmares exits the brush and towers before you. It has the head of your mother and your father's penis emerging from its chest. The penis is rigid and much larger than your own. It tells you that you must reenter the womb, for you are not yet ready for life. Its voice sounds like that of your wife's. You are paralyzed with fear. The stick lies before you, though it might as well be thousands of miles away. The creature takes a step forward, and motions to embrace you in its arms. You must make a choice.

Suddenly you are transported back to the office where you work. You are at your desk, looking at pornography on the internet. A woman is abusing herself with a carrot, but you only find her machinations mildly erotic. You need stronger perversion to become truly aroused. A young woman walks past your cubicle and you strain to look at her ass without her noticing. A part of you wants to get caught. You have not had sexual intercourse with your wife in one month. Neither of you has said anything about your lack of intercourse. It is normal for you. It is how your relationship has devolved. You feel a heavy gaze on your back, and you turn to find your boss standing over you. The pornography is plain to see on your computer. He looks at it; you look at it. The woman on the screen continues to plunge the carrot into her vagina, sounds of pleasure emitting from her lips. The stare continues. You cannot imagine a more uncomfortable situation. Everyone is paying attention now. All of the office is looking at you and your boss. Do you say something? Someone must break the silence before it swallows all. Do you make an excuse? Perhaps you admit to voluntarily viewing the pornography. A penis is growing on your boss's forehead. It is larger than your own. If you do not say anything, it will continue to grow, until it presses against your forehead. What would a man do in this situation? You must act. Your entire life has been nothing but a feint until this moment. The office woman you desire is staring at you, her face an impenetrable mask. She has your mother's eyes, and the pouty lips of your cousin, the one with whom you explored your sexuality during your childhood. Act, my friend. Confront your issues. I...

I'm sorry. Time is up. We will continue the exploration of your myriad issues another time. Please talk with my secretary to schedule another appointment. Oh, and do not park in a handicapped space next time. Good bye.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Apophenia: Chapter Eight

Read parts one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven.

I see the berry eater in the hallway of the Victor B. Tooms building. He’s staring at posterboard, his right hand curled inches away from a tacked piece of paper like a claw, cooing sounds coming from his lips. The effigy he’s fixed on is a visage of Frankenstein’s monster, an advertisement for the drama department. The white t-shirt he’s wearing is riddled with a thousand holes, and I notice that he has no shoes. His feet are long and bony, all knobs and calluses. I can’t remember if he was wearing shoes the last time I saw him.
            “All he wanted was a friend,” I say, pointing at the paper. “Victor was such a dick.”
            The berry eater looks at me. His eyes are lined with blood, tendrils emitting from a cracked center. He shows me his purple-stained teeth, huffs like a deer, and then takes off down the hall, narrowly missing a crowd as he slides around the corner on the soles of his naked feet.
            “Did you threaten to cannibalize his family?” asks Chad, appearing behind me.
            “I told him there was a sale at Dillards. Ninety-nine percent off all women’s underpants.”
            “Did you know they have vending machines in Japan that sell used panties?” asks Chad.
            “We had one at Les Adults, but it never took off. Maybe it’s because Leslie filled it with his own tighty-whities.”
            “You work at Les Adults?”
            “I stock the shelves, organize the wares, color-coordinate the dildos,” I say. “It’s no big deal.”
            “What’s it like, working in a sex store?”
            “It’s not a whorehouse, Chad. It’s like working in any other retail environment, except the patrons are scarcer. No one ever buys anything. They just come in to gawk.”
            “You ever been in the strip club across the street?” he asks.
            “No, but I’m working on a budding friendship with one of the strippers.”
            “How much of a fuck-up is she? Daddy issues, right? Is she a crack whore? A victim of the patriarchy? Boobs like watermelons?” He gestures, cupping his hands, eyes rolling like a cartoon character’s.
            “She’s beautiful, and I know of no psychological issues.”
            “Leona, she’s a stripper. I’m going to assume that she didn’t make good life choices.”
            “What’s wrong with being a stripper? A phone sex operator? A prostitute?” I say, my voice rising. “How can you condemn such people while simultaneously masturbating to internet porn? These people are responsible for all the gross acts you try to get your girlfriend to agree to. They teach you things, they build your fantasies. They’re loved and reviled. It’s hypocrisy. A woman who outwardly embraces her sexual nature is empowering. She should be celebrated. She shouldn’t be branded a harlot.”
            “Yeah, it’s real empowering to have an eight-inch penis shoved down your throat,” says Chad. “A woman crouched down, open-mouthed, begging for semen to be shot all over her face, that’s a real feminist image, let me tell you.”
            “You’re an idiot,” I tell him.
            “You’re as charming as always.”
            I brush past him and enter the classroom. Peter Gibbons is prancing about the room, humming to himself, legs twitching like a drug addict’s. He’s wearing large black-framed glasses, a tweed sweater, and motorcycle boots. He’s slightly bow-legged, the result of some childhood accident that apparently reduced his potential height. All of his brothers are tall and athletic, he says, which is one of the reasons he gravitated toward the arts. You want to talk about psychological issues, well, I bet Peter has some, judging from his poetry. According to Chad, he should be a stripper. Or me, taking paid phone calls from weirdoes.
            “Um, Class, uh, every night I have a writing session. It’s free-form, as you might have guessed. I write what comes to mind. It’s automatic, unconscious, liberating.” Gibbons leans against the chalkboard as he talks, his left leg jittering up and down a thousand undulations a minute. “I have here a piece of paper littered with my scribblings. This is the first line I wrote: I want to fuck my mother, a decadent, decaying corpse, a pulsating pestilence that desires the ugly love that I bring. I read that this morning and I was like, ‘holy crap, this is disturbing.’ What does it mean, you know? Is there truth to those words? The answer, of course, is no. I have no incestuous desires. The mind cycles through infinite possibilities, and sometimes the things you would never consciously think about pop up in your head like bad dreams. This is okay, though. It’s our job to capture these dark designs. Real art is created instantaneously, not in a laboratory. The Rolling Stones wrote some of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll songs of all time, and I guarantee you they didn’t labor over the composition of most of them. Keith Richards claims the simple riff for I Can’t Get No (Satisfaction) came to him in a dream. Do, don’t try. Write, don’t think.”
            “It takes a special type of courage to write those lines,” comments Chad, winking at me.
            “I am not a courageous man, although you are correct, being a true artist requires a great deal of honesty, as well as the ability to put yourself out there, reception be damned. So that’s courage, I guess.”
            “So I can string a bunch of random words together like Gertrude Stein and be hailed a visionary, just as long as my nonsense is honest and I have the gall to present it as art?” I ask innocently.
            “No,” says Gibbons, furrowing his brow in my direction, “you’d just be aping Stein. There’s a distinct difference between drawing from your influences and imitating them.”
            “Is this going to be another argument?” whines Roxanne, looking more hung-over than usual.
            “What do you think discussion time is for?” replies Dexter, dressed rather ridiculously, as is his wont, in what can only be a lady’s riding jacket. The large brass buttons are nice, though.
            “It’s for bullshitting,” says Rupert/Robert, his fat head shaking as he speaks.
            “The bullshit is supposed to go on here,” I say, showing my notebook. “It’s not supposed to come out of your mouth.”
             “Okay, I think we’re done here,” says Gibbons. “Put the pens to the paper and write.”
What am I but an extension of my mother’s labyrinth,
 a creature meant to bend and slide through corridors of refuse,
walking on the chipped pavement till my shoes rot away and my soul touches the grimy earth that yearns to swallow me as it has swallowed millions like me,
 women teetering on the tremulous, sharp edged blade of time,
 turning out their pockets for cigarette stubs,
 shrugging off advances and bills and weak paychecks and everyday people who would
eat your heart if they could,
 slice it up and spice it up on a plate,
 the inevitable pull of currents dragging us downward,
 pregnant and dilapidated, maids to trolls, keepers of the brood,
 a sorry lot of bed-wetters, prospective alcoholics,
 future drug addicts and wife beaters,
 little boys and girls who just weren’t able to be happy,
 just like their mothers, just like their mother’s great sprawling messes,
 abysses that yawn and call for more and more and more,
 their stomachs as endless as the company I keep,
 my kin, my kind, my home.
            Chad catches me outside. I have headphones on; I stare at him for a while, watching his lips move. All ready I want a cigarette and a beer, anything to make myself forget Gibbons’ class, and the long week that looms ahead of me like a giant black bird of prey. Chad is getting impatient, judging from his scowl, so I take off the headphones and listen to what he has to say.
“My show’s this week. You remember your promise?” he asks.
“Chad, I’m busy with a literal ton of work, and I really mean a cool two-thousand and five-hundred pounds. I’ve had a dump truck drop it like the world’s biggest deuce in the middle of my yard. Construction workers, big, burly guys in yellow hard hats smelling of salami and provolone cheese, they worked for eons assembling the mess. There are veritable layers of paper like geological time zones, each piece of the pie signifying some insurmountable task. There will never be enough time to finish what I want.”
“You don’t even know what day the show is,” he says.
“I never make promises in earnest. It’s a terrible habit of mine. I admit it. I have no honor.” I shrug my shoulders and start walking.
“Hey, what are you listening to?” he asks.
“Roisin Murphy,” I answer.
“Row-sheen Murphy?”
“I will not let you feign interest in my musical preferences. Why the hell do you want me to go to this show anyway? You and I, we do not gel. We are oil and water. Cat and dog. Hydrochloric acid and human skin.”
“Opposites attract,” he says. “The Part-Time Poets don’t have much of a following. You might think better of me once you see me on stage wearing my leather pants.”
“With a cucumber stuffed down them, I’m sure.”
“I would never use food in such a manner,” he replies, smiling those white teeth.
“That’s a shame,” I say.
“Friday night at Bohemians. Be there or be square. You’d never be square, would you, Leona?”
“I’ve been known to do some strange things,” I answer. My headphones block out anything further he has to say.