Saturday, January 31, 2015

Will Somebody Please Take this Stinky Old Cat?

Will somebody please take this cat? He is horrible. All day long he follows me around, meowing. I feed him but he eats all of it in seconds and then meows some more. I have tried to find a muzzle but nobody sells cat muzzles. He also keeps filling his litter box with poop. I can't believe how much poop comes out of this cat. At the end of the day there's like twenty pounds of cat poop in the box. That's not normal, right? I'm beginning to think that this cat is a gypsy curse.

Last night I woke up with the cat standing on my chest. He looked into my eyes; I looked into his. We each tried to communicate our thoughts. This continued for approximately five hours. Eventually, he let out one long, low meow. It was horrible. It sounded like an engine dying. If he starts doing this every night, I don't think I can take it.

This cat is old. He could die at any minute. Won't somebody give him a home? He's ruining mine. I can't open the door without smelling his farts. Yesterday, the mailman told me he cannot deliver my mail anymore because the stench coming from my home is too unbearable. When I go to the store, people take me aside and tell me that I smell like cat farts. What kind of existence is this? Am I trapped on a particularly cruel level of hell?

I will pay you money to take this cat. I have five-hundred dollars that I was saving for purchasing a life-sized replica of lieutenant Uhura, but I will give it all to you if you come and take this cat this instant. No refunds. Keep in mind, this cat is a major commitment. You will have to resign yourself to smelling like cat farts.

I'm going to have to be straight with you, though. You can't get rid of this cat. You can't kick him out or drop him off at the animal shelter. You can't poison him. If you club him with a bat, he'll get back up. The only way to get rid of him is to gift him to somebody else. If you think you can do that, and you want five-hundred dollars, then be my guest. You can't say I lied to you.

He's watching me as I type this. He sits on the kitchen table, eating my food. There's a certain kind of cruel arrogance in his smirk, as though he knows exactly what I'm doing. I fear for my life. Please, come take my cat. Help me.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Hey Bro, I'm Gonna Get You Ripped

What do you think his shits look like? Righteous, that's what they look like.

Yo, this is Gordy Weaver here, but instead of giving ya'll paranormal advice like I usually do, I'm gonna share my workout program, which will get ya'll ripped and looking like Marky-Mark back in the days when Marky-Mark couldn't keep his shirt, pants, or shit together (AKA, the good ol' days). Now, some discriminating people are probably gonna comment on the balance of exercises and my supplement regimen, but those peps are asshole jabronis who couldn't whip their grandma's ass. So let's get to the point and share my split.

Monday, AKA National Bench Press Day. 4-6 sets of Bench Pressing, with rep ranges between 8 and 12 reps for maximum swoll factor. Top those pecs of with 4 sets of 10 dumbbell flys or the pec deck. Hit the triceps afterwards with some pushdowns to get that awesome horseshoe shape on the back of your arms. Do some lateral raises for the medial head of the deltoids. Wash, rinse, and repeat. The pecs are the most important body part besides the biceps (AND THE PENIS). Chicks wanna see them big boobies, and you gotta develop them with the utmost care and concern. I like to mix in Incline Benches every once in a while to get that awesome dividing line between the upper and lower pecs. You want those puppies to hang like tits.

Tuesday, BUILD YOUR BACK, YO. 4-6 sets of T-Bar Rows so that your bat wings take root and enable you to fly past all those lame motherfuckers. I love me some chins ups post rows. Sometimes I'll do them with a dumbbell in between my legs LIKE A BIG FUCKING WIENER. If you don't have that V-shape, no chick in her right mind is gonna be fooled into sleeping with your lame ass. I like to hammer my biceps after doing back, because you want those things to rise like mountains and fucking PEAK! 4-6 sets of 12 reps of hammer curls, reverse curls, preacher curls, cheat curls, etc... No amount of curling is too much curling, brotha.

Is that a guy who grew boobs or a girl who grew arms? Shit, I dunno, but it makes me feel insecure.

Wednesday, LEG DAY or day of rest. Haha, just kidding. You fools need to get on that leg press and move some iron. 4-6 sets bro. DO YOU SEE A PATTERN? Then bust out the leg extensions and the leg curls to develop that tear-drop shape in your quads that'll have all the hood rats shedding tears on their behalfs because YOU'RE SO GODDAMN SWOLL! Make sure to workout the calves before you leave. Nobody like skinny chicken legs. Except maybe your mom.

Supplements--Creatine, Protein Powder, Fat-Burners, BCAAs, Vitamins, etc... If you ain't spending 400 dollars a week on supplements, then you ain't spending enough! (Don't forget the illegals ones, bros). 

Thursday/Friday/Saturday, Repeat, repeat, repeat! You can change up exercises if you want, but don't neglect your muscles unless you want your muscles to neglect you. The most important things in life are your body, your bros, your libido, and Mark Wahlberg. PEACE.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Help! I Live with a Bunch of Nerds

Diary Entry, January 28th
This is getting to be too much. The nerds are building something in there, something terrible. I try to get to sleep, but the one with autism comes to my door and beats on it incessantly till I call the cops. I think that they are building a cage to keep me in. Also, the little creepy guy with tight pants is always propositioning me whenever I leave the safety of my room. I think he's a serial rapist. He dresses like he got into his grandfather's wardrobe, that is if his grandfather were a roadie for the Who in the sixties. I caught him in the laundry room one time smelling a pair of panties.

Diary Entry, February 1st
The Indian guy just stares at me, silent, brooding. His lips move like he's trying to speak, but nothing comes out of his mouth but horror. Does he see something in me that I do not? Am I not worthy of words?

Diary Entry, February 3rd
One of them introduced himself to me today, said his name is "Golickee," or something like that. He smelled like old cheese, and his palm was very moist. "If you need anything, just ask," he said, winking. I'm trying to cancel my lease, but the landlord isn't cooperating. I'm thinking of buying a gun.

Diary Entry, February 5th
I finally caught a glimpse of what they're building in there. It is a cage, a human-sized one. As I'm peeking through the door, the autistic guy sees me. He points at the cage, then at me, and smiles. His grin is impossibly large, as though he means to swallow the world. I back up, my hands up to protect myself as he comes toward me, his grin never changing. Panicking, I run down the stairs. They loop forever. I spend like four hours passing through identical floors, like I'm living in an M.C. Escher drawing. Finally, I find the lobby. Things have change; this is not my building, and I don't know these people. Have they drugged me? Somehow transported me back in time? I don't know. I flee, darting into the streets. I haven't been back since. All I have now is the alley and my writings.   

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Short Story: Wolf: Chapter Two

Here's Part One.

Chapter Two   
The road winds like a snake, the trees dense, the underbrush heavy, a beer clutched in my hand (Great Crescent, a local microbrewery), Rob taking the turns with reckless abandon, his old red pick up stuttering along like a machine on its last legs. The radio cackles with recycled songs, but we chug our beers in silence, my head thrust out the window like a dog. It's warm outside, unseasonably warm, but that's becoming the new norm: our winters are either mild or unbearably cold. Rob has a pipe full of tobacco jutting from his mouth like an old country farmer, which is more or less what he is, I suppose. He grows tomatoes and peppers in a greenhouse on his property, and there are a few ancient apple trees that he harvests for cider, though I wouldn't drink it, the fruit having been pelted with acid rain and other contaminants. “Everyone you know's got more heavy metals in them than Metallica,” he says by way of explanation. “What's the harm of a few more?” Indeed, I often find myself wondering this. All the precautions we go through daily: the face masks, the copper codpieces (I haven't worn mine in years), the air filtration systems in our homes. Are we really adding time on to our lives? Or is it all theater, a pointless game played to pacify our fears? The research is divided on the issue, as it always is. You can always find someone to back your most insubstantial conclusions.
            Rob turns down a gravel road lined with ancient trees, white-barked sycamores towering one-hundred feet above us like alabaster gods. There's a pasture on the left side of the road, opposite the trees; here the grass has grow wild and tall, waving in the faint wind like waves on the ocean. “Ain't it something?” says Rob, more to himself than me. I nod in compliance. I take the face mask off, for the air feels fresh and clean. The sky is a blue sea, an enormous, cloudless bubble. Fuck the microclimate, I find myself thinking. This is real. This is substantial.
            We park in front of a small brick house, an unassuming structure, painted white, fading with time. “Check this out,” says Rob, as we exit his truck. He walks behind the house and points at a wide, shallow creek, water rushing over giant sedimentary rocks. I walk to the bank's edge and place my hands in the cool water. It is icy cold, but like the air, it feels purer, more real than anything I've experienced in a long time. I take a handful of pebbles from the river bed and cradle them in my hands like pearls. Rob is beaming; he takes a long sip from his Great Crescent and lets loose with an appreciative belch. We sit down at the bank and look at the water for a long time. It laps against the rocks, the current making a pleasing, indescribable sound. A lullaby, I think. I could sleep for eons listening to that music.
            “I used to come out here as a boy and listen to the coyotes howls,” says Rob. “I'd climb that tree there, that big willow, and I wait till it got dark. You could hear them across the crick, moving in a pack, all growls and high-pitched squeals. It ain't a comforting sound, you know. It sounds like they're laughing at you, but they're crazy, they're wild, they're full of piss and vinegar that you'll never have, and I tell ya, as a kid, I was scared to death that they'd cross the river and surround my tree. But they never did. I don't know if they was aware of my presence. Maybe I was just a witness. It's what I like to think. I don't like thinking I'm anything else. Not out here.” He points behind us to the pasture. “Mom and Dad used to plant that in corn and tobacco. Never felt right to me, using the land that way. There ain't no butterflies when you plow it. There ain't no bees, neither. There's just corn and dirt underneath, 'cause Pop always used herbicide. Pop never cared what he was putting back into the earth. He wanted to poison it, I think. He thought it was all against him, all the weeds and the mites and critters. I remember he caught a raccoon one time and had it dangling from that there sycamore branch in a cage. He let it starve. I watched that coon for a month. It took that long. I tried putting a ladder up there and letting him out, but Pop caught me and beat the hell outta me. “What're you, some kinda sissy?” he told me. Well, Pop, I guess I am. I never stopped feeling sorry for that raccoon. What do you think of that?”
            “You're not a sissy, Rob. There are worse things to be called,” I tell him.
            “I'm sure you've probably heard them. We don't exactly work with the most enlightened individuals.” He picks himself up, rising to his feet. “Well, what the hell you wanna do? It's a little late for hunting. We can build a fire, break out some more beers. Maybe toss some marshmallows in the fire. We could get the tackle box out and fish some.”
            We fish for a while, sitting on the bank like Huckleberry Finn and Jim, Rob the boyish idealist, me the fool, dreaming of witches. Time seems to pass in a fairy-tale manner; night settles in before we know it, our senses inebriated, the darkness shrouding the creek, leaving only the bubbling rhythm as a faint background utterance. Neither of us experiences a tug on our lines. Rob takes out his flashlight, and we settle our poles firmly in-between the rocks and retreat to the fire pit, where Rob lights a fire with kerosine and a box of matches. We drink more beer, our intoxication growing; we eat hot dogs charred black, oozing mysterious juices. The crickets grow loud as an orchestra–‒–they never really die now, it never gets cold enough‒–but it's relaxing, their rising chatter mixed with the gentle roar of the creek.
            “You hear that?” Rob asks, as I turn an impaled hot dog on a stick.
            “Nope,” I say.
            “I thought I heard something. A howl in the distance.”
            “A coyote?” I ask.
            “A wolf howl,” says Rob, looking at me through the flickering flames.
            “There aren't any wolves in Indian, Rob,” I tell him. “Shit, wildlife is dying at an unprecedented rate, with global warming and the general quality of the air. Your children's children might live underground. They won't know what a butterfly is, but they'll know an earthworm when they see one. Maybe.” I look back into the darkness. All I see is the faint outline of the woods; all I hear is the flow of the creek.
            “There. There it is again,” says Rob.
            “I still don't hear it,” I admit. I wonder if he's trying to scare me.
            “Maybe you can't hear it,” says Rob. “My Pop never did.”
            “You going to tell me a ghost story now?” I say in jest. “What's so scary about a wolf anyway? It's just an animal that would run away if it saw you.”
            “My old man had a friend, a drinking buddy named Hutchinson that used to live out here. He paid my Pop infrequently; his squatting was a sore subject between Ma and my daddy, since she didn't like having a man of his ilk close to the house. Hutch had a trailer a couple acres back on the other side of the creek. He wasn't a good fella, though he was amicable, most of the time at least, which is no wonder, considering he was drunk all day and all night. He was one of them friendly drunks that always gets a little too friendly; he was always one drink away from saying how he truly felt, and it didn't matter to him what he said, cause he was never sober. My Pop eventually kicked him off the land when Ma said he came on to her. Hutch denied it, vehemently, and said my Ma was full of strange notions and divergent opinions, which was his way of talking. He could never say nothing straight. I remember he had real big hands for a normal-sized man. Big ol' mitts with large knuckles like knots in an oak tree's trunk. When he'd touch you, it'd feel like he was scraping sandpaper across your skin. Them nails of his were kinda pointy, almost like claws, and there was bruises underneath them, like someone had smashed his fingers with a hammer. He smelled like a dog, too. Really stinky and musky, like he spent all of his time outside. Had hair spilling out the neckline of his shirt. His eyes were the color of amber. You couldn't look at them eyes very long. I don't think ol' Hutch ever blinked. Even though he was a drunk son of a bitch and a general good-fer-nothing, he didn't take no shit from anybody. I watched him beat the hell outta some big fella who'd come down to race his motorcycle by the river. Don't know what the fight was about, but Hutch had 'em on the ground and was pulling on his arm like it was a stick stuck in the ground, and I heard it pop from a hundred feet away, right out of the socket. It was dangling at the man's side like a piece of meat. The cops chased him off. I don't know why they didn't take him in, have him arrested like he deserved. After my Pop kicked him off the land, we never heard from him again. He either went West, or had himself a heart attack in a ditch somewhere.”
            “This isn't much of a ghost story, Rob,” I say.
            “I hadn't got to it yet. Hutch could howl just like a wolf. I watched him from that willow tree one time. I had climbed up it like I used to do, just to watch the woods, when I saw him coming down to the creek. He wasn't wearing any shirt, and he had big cuts on his chest, big gashes like he'd been in a knife fight. I didn't say anything to him; I could tell that he wasn't in the best condition, so I just watched. He went right up to the river on all fours and started lapping up the water. I tell ya, Rob, his tongue was just like a dog's. It was long and dangling, and had a little black spot in the middle of it. I watched him drink the water, and all the while the hair on the back of my neck was standing up, and I was getting a strange sensation like I should high-tail it outta there. Then he started sniffing the air, his nose twitching, and then he let out this howl, this terrible moan that had me sliding out of that tree and running to the house. I locked the door and ran up to my room and hid under the bed. It was a wolf's howl, but it sounded crazy and diseased, like something was sick inside him and he didn't care. I think Pop kicked him off not too long after that.”
            “So he was a wild man. You think there's anybody squatting out in your woods right now?” I ask.
            “You know that trailer's back there somewhere. I haven't seen it in years,” says Rob. “You wanna go look at it?”
            “Sure. In the morning,” I say, humoring my friend. Crawling through a crazy hermit's abandoned abode didn't strike me as a particularly rewarding task.
            “You wanna call it a night?” suggests Rob. I nod my head in agreement, and we retreat to the small cabin. I fall asleep instantly on a bottomed-out futon and dream of a woman in a white dress. She's inside the cabin, cooking something in a pot; I'm standing outside, looking through the window. It's a sunny day, the air clean and pure, my hands warm and perspiring on the cool glass of the window pane. The woman smiles at me as she stirs, her teeth white, her lips crimson, cherry ripe. She waves, beckoning me inside, so I leave the window, my feet moving quickly on the damp earth, an unbridled eagerness in my steps. Invite me in, I say at the door, and it opens. Whatever she's cooking smells delicious, its odor heavy with onions, herbs, and roast flesh. I sit myself down on the hardwood floors and stare up at her, the woman in white, as she looms above me, gracile, slender as a fawn. You're a good boy, she whispers, extending a long white hand to trace the outline of my face. My tongue comes out and licks her fingers, and she laughs and shakes her head. None of that, she says, bending over the stove with a bowl to ladle my meal. Saliva drips from my jaws, pooling on the floor; I find myself jumping up at the bowl, which is held aloft by the woman in white, who tells me to be patient. But I can't, but I can't, no, I can't, I shout in my head. Sit, she says, and I manage to kneel on the floor, my tongue dangling from my mouth like a wet rag. Good boy, she tells me, placing the bowl at my feet. I see a flash of skin and bone and maybe an eye before my jaws go to work. I eat with the ravenous stupidity of an animal, licking the bottom of the bowl for droplets of broth, afterward flipping my dish to see if there is anything underneath. That's all, she tells me, her mouth widening, her teeth tiny slivers of bone. I see now the hair on her legs; her feet are huge and filthy, the toes ending in talons. Go outside now, boy she says through her fangs. Go find something else to eat.
            We get up early, eating a breakfast of eggs and bacon provided by Rob's small farm. Rob pours us coffee in a red union suit that shows considerable wear; I say nothing as he mixes Jameson into our cups. I feel groggy from my strange dreams, with a slight headache and a dull pain brewing in my lower back from sleeping on the futon. A strong desire to go home and leave this cabin and the woods manifests itself in a “mopey-eyed stare,” according to Rob. “What're you gonna do at home, play on your computer and watch tv?” he asks. I shrug in compliance; I would probably being doing one of those activities were I not out in the wilderness. Change can be good, I suppose, provided that it occasionally knocks some sense into us. I finish my coffee, but Rob pours me another cup mixed with liquor and puts on a heavy pair of overalls, taking a rifle into his hands. He thrusts a weapon at me.
            “I thought I'd be better as coming as moral support rather than a hunter,” I tell him.
            “Just carry it, then,” he replies. It's a black shotgun, double barrel, cool and solid in my hands. Dad had a gun, a black nine millimeter that he kept under the bed. I remember my brother daring me to take it and go shoot it off in an alley. His suggestion was more of a joke than actual advice; we both knew that our father would likely beat the hell out of us or worse for taking his pistol. Still, it lingered beneath the bed like a forbidden talisman. I went to look for it on a particularly desperate night, one of those terrible days of youth when the stark loneliness of existence is palpable and present in one's hands, but it was gone, probably pawned by my father to pay off a debt. I haven't searched for a gun since.
            I dress, and we go outside brandishing firearms and a twelve-pack of good beer, maskless, the air cool and breathable. We cross the creek, stepping on huge stones forged with the remains of tiny animals, little seashells and sea worms that lived millions of years ago when this land was the bottom of a great ocean. Oak, maple, and box elder grow tall and tremendous in the woods, where we weave through the underbrush until we find a deer trail. I don't think it's deer-hunting season, but Rob wouldn't be the type to care, though he hasn't told me what we're doing, exactly. It doesn't matter. My mood improves with every step, with the chatter of birds and squirrels, with every palpitation of nature's resilient, adaptive heart. I don't see the damage of acid rain or the grey blanket of ash that so often covers my yard. What I see is alive and thriving, though separate from man, isolated, preserved. This isn't how the world is anymore, I find myself thinking. In a way, we are traveling back in time.
            We wander awhile through the woods, getting drunk and not speaking, just letting the birds do the talking. We pass an old barn with a tree growing through its roof, the wide branches stretching upward like a priest's arms asking for God's benediction, and we drink a beer inside its hollow innards, deer tracks visible in the dirt. Rob takes a bag of marijuana out of his pocket and puts it in his pipe. He smokes, holding his breath in for a minute, then slowly letting out a plume of thick smoke through his nostrils. I take the pipe, putting aside the fact that they drug test at work, and have myself a smoke. The hum of nature intensifies; the birds chirp louder, the insects increase their throbbing song. Sunlight pours through the branches of the canopy, warming us with blinding rays. After a while we both look at each other stupidly, our expressions hanging on our faces.
            “You wanna go see that trailer?” asks Rob.
            “If you really want to,” I reply.
            “I do,” says Rob, getting up. “It's just over there, past that ravine. Used to be a road somewhere back here, just a trail of gravel, but I bet its overgrown with weeds now. Let's go see.”
            The trailer sits in a depression, like the earth is caving in beneath it. The rotten remnants of a porch lie in front of it, sticking out of the ground like headstones. We pass an old car rusting into the forest bed, its color long faded, its wheels vanished, having been plundered. The door to the trailer hangs by a single hinge like a broken jaw. We pause before entering, our apprehension growing, yet Rob pushes past and climbs into the derelict old thing.
            “Find any boyhood monsters in there?” I ask.
            “There's some nice nudie rags,” replies Rob. “You better get in here.”
            I'm greeted by the smell of mold as I climb up into the trailer. There are boxes everywhere, endless clutter; Rob sits at a booth, slowly perusing a vintage porno, an opened box before him on the table. The guy was obviously a horder, that's clear, though the contents of his boxes are diverse and not restricted to pornography. The first box I open is full of dried purple flowers, pressed flat, perhaps between the pages of a book. In another I find a collection of religious books including the Bible, Torah, and the Vedas. I show these to Rob, who seems uninterested, the porno apparently rather arresting. “He's got notes written in here,” he says, “shit like 'nice pussy,' and 'grade A tits.' That's pretty weird, huh?” I show him another box, this one full of bones, femurs, tibias, and the skulls of small animals.
            “He was a grade A creep,” says Rob, putting down the magazine.
            “What were you hoping to find here?” I ask.
            “I dunno. I guess I wondered why the guy was so weird. I also wanted to know why my father put up with him for so long. My dad was always a loyal guy. It took a lot to fall out of his graces, once you were a buddy. Hell, maybe he was scared of him. I think everybody was scared of Hutch.”
            We root around for a while, looking through the boxes. I find a collection of notebooks filled with illegible scrawlings, their characters alien and unsettling in their angular hieroglyphics, but I slip one of the books beneath my jacket for future examination. Rob takes a couple porn rags, and we climb out, our curiosity sated. My friend seems disappointed, as though he expected to find a pentagram or a book of Satanic drivel. We travel aimlessly through the forest, I following Rob, trusting in his knowledge and sense of direction. Eventually, we come back to the ravine. Rob sits down next to a tree, resting on his haunches, and looks through the two hillsides, the gleam of the trailer strong in the midday sun. We finish the last of our beers. I feel content, as though I've accomplished something. I can tell that Rob is restless.
            “What are we doing?” I whisper. I feel compelled to whisper. Maybe it's the silence of the woods.
            “Waiting for a deer,” he says.
            “Why are we back at the trailer?” I ask.
            “This is a good spot. We can see down in that ravine. I know they come this way, you saw the tracks. I don't got a tree stand around here, and I don't feel like walking any more. That enough for ya?”
            “I feel like you're waiting for something. Or somebody,” I suggest.
            “I'm waiting for a ten-point buck, that's all. What the hell else would I be waiting for?”
            “Hutch,” I say.
            Rob doesn't say anything; he just points, slowly, then his finger goes to his mouth.  A deer has sauntered into view, a great buck, with a large, many-pointed rack. He stands at the bottom of the ravine like a king, the sun shining on his golden shoulders, his great head raised, the antlers like crown. He sniffs the air, snorting loudly; he raises his forelimb and paws at the earth. The ash has not affected him; his tawny coat knows no acid rain nor malnutrition. “He's beautiful,” I whisper. Rob is on his belly, his rifle in his arms, peering through the sights. I look at the deer and then at my friend, and I realize that I have never wanted to kill anything less in my life. “Rob!” I shout suddenly; the gun goes off, the shot reverberating through the ravine like a bolt of thunder. The buck shudders, I see the blood fly from his shoulder, and then he's off, vanished into the wilderness.
            “Christ, what the fuck did you do that for?” says Rob, turning toward me angrily. “He's wounded, and now we gotta find him.”
            “I think he got away,” I say.
            “Yeah, no shit, but you don't leave a wounded animal to die. I saw that shot hit his shoulder. He's probably limping off somewhere to die slowly. Let's get down there and follow the blood trail before it dries up.”
            The trail is clearly visible, great splatters of blood littering the earth like globs of paint thrown from an errant artist's hand. We wander through a field of stinging nettle growing next to the bank of the creek, and we cross the waters, finding the trail immediately. His blood is bright, florescent, brilliant like ichor. My fingers touch a splattered leaf, my thumb and forefinger feeling the liquid's consistency, its fleeting warmth. Ash starts to fall suddenly, heavy silver flakes raining down from a sickly cloud barely visible beneath the canopy. We scramble to put on our masks. The trail loses its vigor as we follow it, contrary to expectations, the blood fading, its color lost under the growing murk. The sunny disposition of the forest has changed; ash and midst grow, strange bursts of hot and cold air bringing fog that hangs in pockets, pooling in depressions, oozing out of stumps as though propelled by an invisible machine. Rob curses; he wants to find the buck, but we are losing our sense of place and risking becoming lost. “Ain't this some weird shit?” he asks, and I nod silently behind him and try not to think of how the air I'm breathing is full of toxins, carcinogens, and hormone-altering substances. We're about to give up when I see a flash of movement off to my right, a recognizable white tail bounding out of my peripheral vision. “There!” I say, and we head that direction. The terrain has grown rocky; we are climbing through a dried creek bed that winds up a gully, the trees on each bank immense, twisted sycamores with alabaster skins. Crude stacks of stones five feet tall rise from the midst, remnants of a wall, perhaps, or something else. I watch Rob glancing at them as we climb, as though he recognizes their meaning. As we climb, the mouth of a cave emerges, a stony overhang jutting from the hillside like a reptile's jaw. I pause, looking into its darkness, and see a drop of blood shimmering on the floor. “Here!” I say, but Rob's up the hillside, heading toward the summit. I yell for him again, but he doesn't answer, his silhouette vanishing in the fog. The gun is heavy in my hand, making its presence known. I walk into the cave.
            The hoof prints are easy to see in the damp soil, their trail heading deeper down the lined throat of the earth. Warm air like hot breath hits my face, bringing with it the reek of ammonia. I stagger and touch the walls; they are moist and slimy, perspiring viscous fluid. Water trickles somewhere in the depths. I squint my eyes and see light down there, a flickering, fragmented light. The slope is severe, too steep for my liking, and I'm about to head back when my feet slip, and suddenly I'm falling, tumbling like a child down into the innards of the cave, my limbs tangled, flailing helplessly at warm, wet rock. The entrance, the mouth, it shrinks in my shattered vision, its jaws closing, shutting out the light, shutting in the darkness and me. I lose contact with the earth. An abyss rises out of nothingness, banishing the lure, and there is nothing left to see, nothing left to wait for but the end. Where is that damned dear? I think before it all turns to black.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

My Life is a Composite of Arnold Schwarzenegger Movie Quotes

I pull into a drive-in with my hot date. She slaps me as soon as the movie starts. "What the fuck did I do wrong?" I ask. "You didn't stick around," she says. I don't know what she means. I want to watch the movie but she jumps out of the car and runs off into the field screaming,

I sit down at a restaurant. The waitress comes up to me and asks what I want to drink. I tell her "Milk is for babies. When you grow up, you have to drink beer." She brings me a Miller Light. I am enraged.

My girlfriend tells me that she's on her period. "If it bleeds, we can kill it," I say. She hits me in the head with a hammer, and I'm unconscious for three days. When I wake up, I don't know my name.

My date asks me what I want for breakfast. "I eat Green Berets for breakfast," I tell her. She says she doesn't have any of those. I am disappointed.

A helicopter lands on my roof. "Get to the copper!" I yell to no one in particular. No one does as I say. This is getting ridiculous.

I peek into my window. "There's someone in my house, on my birthday, eating my birthday cake!" I exclaim. I spend the rest of the day drinking and yelling at strangers.

My mailman comes to the door. "You're one ugly motherfucker," I say. He doesn't care. He doesn't feel anything anymore.

Somebody spits in my milkshake. "Fuck you, asshole," I say to him. He says it was all a mistake. I don't buy it.

A patrolman pulls me over. "I'm a cop, it's all I know how to be," I explain. He doesn't get it. He puts me in handcuffs, and I spend the night in prison. I'm beginning to think that I have a problem.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Terminator's Diary

The year is 2020 and the internet has achieved sentience. To prevent humanity from using its vast powers for shame and perversion, the internet has sent a brave warrior back in time to terminate former Vice President Al Gore, who invented it. This is that warrior's log.

Date Unknown, Day One
I materialize in a storm of blue lightning, bare-ass naked. A group of punks is staring at me, foolish grins on their meaty, dumb faces. "Give me your clothes," I tell them. One is filming me on a cellular phone. "Forget you, buddy," says the leader, flipping me the bird. They turn and leave. I pursue them, forming a plan to murder them and steal their clothes, but a police car sees me and I have to retreat to the sewers, where I crawl through human feces for several hundred yards. I meet a rat named Sam that has also achieved sentience. His language is simple but elegant. I explain to him my mission, and he agrees to assist me as much as possible. We exit the sewer behind a Ponderosa. He tells me what he knows about the present as he feasts on discarded meals from the dumpster. Unfortunately, being a rat, he knows nothing relevant to my mission.

Day Two
I befriend a homeless man living in the dumpster behind the Ponderosa and obtain a set of clothes. I ask him what he knows about Al Gore. "Global warming and all that bullshit," he says, unintelligible. He then commences to urinate for approximately half an hour. My biological parts need sustenance, so I enter the Ponderosa. "Give me food if you want to live," I tell the waiter. I am pointed to the buffet. Standing there is a crowd of people so fat that I am rendered speechless. I do not get in line for fear of catching the fat disease. I later consume a handful of acorns obtained by Sam in the park.

Day Three
I obtain some vital intelligence on Al Gore from another homeless man who we'll call "Bob." Bob says Al Gore lives in a glass house that runs on the sun in Tennessee, and that it is heavily fortified and guarded by an advanced race of space aliens called the "Fiddle-Faddle." It is clear that I will need advanced weaponry if I am to succeed in my mission, so I go to a pawn shop. They do not have any pulse rifles, so I have to settle for a small-caliber handgun. Unfortunately, I have nothing to pay with. I try to shoot the shop owner, but the gun has no bullets, so I flee into the streets and have to spend my day hiding once again in the sewer.

Day Four
Okay, this is fucked up. Apparently I was not sent back far enough. The year is 2015. 2015! It doesn't fucking matter if Al Gore's dead! I learned this from a library computer. I spent the rest of my day watching cat videos. I don't know what the hell to do.   

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Perez Hilton Presents the Sexiest Old Men in Hollywood

Is everybody fabulous right now? Jesus, I hope so. Without further ado, let's get into the hottest old sacks of meat still flapping around Hollywood.

Danny Devito

Christ, Danny's still looking good. I bet he could still fit into his penguin suit from Batman Returns. I wonder what he's eating? One-hundred percent organic grass fed beef, that's what I'd guess. If he keeps aging like this, somebody will have to shoot him. It's just not fair! Jesus.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Look at them man-boobies! Don't you just want to reach out and touch them? Bodybuilders age like old sacks of lard, but Arnold still has it. Watch out, Latino nannies! You'll get pregnant by osmosis if you get anywhere close to this former Mr. Universe! Christ Almighty!

Sly Stallone

The Italian Stallion, am I rite? Sly looks like he just crawled out of the wet placenta of a mastodon (HE LOOKS GOOD). Nice tats, by the way. I'd like to do my laundry on those abs.

Steven Tyler

Sweet emoticon! And I thought Arnold's moobs were nice. That's more than a mouthful, right boys? I see where Liv gets her rack.

James Franco's Ass

Jimmy ain't old, but his ass has sure taken a pounding! We obtained this shot from a secret source (Seth Rogan!). Amazing how he crams all of that into those tight pants! JESUS!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Every Rose Has Its Thorn

Yo, everybody, I'm here to tell you about something that it took me a long time to really comprehend. I'm talking years, people. Do you realize that every rose has its thorn(s)? I guess there are thornless roses out there, but who wants those? Every rose should have its thorns, is what I'm saying. A rose is defenseless against predators like your cat without its thorns. Sure, they don't help much against defoliating aphids, but they keep little kids from plucking too many flowers off. The thorns are the price the rose must pay for its beauty. Kinda like when you have to give up a couple grand in order to bang a nice-looking escort, and then you have to pay extra for butt-stuff. I get that. Nobody likes to be on the receiving end of butt-stuff except for gay dudes, and perhaps certain washed-up rock stars that don't identify with the homosexual community. But if you're already plopping down considerable cash, shouldn't the bang session be all inclusive? I mean, I've already wined and dined you, taken you to a decent hotel, autographed your favorite album of mine, and then you have the audacity to haggle with me like I'm some fat, lonely businessman who can't muster up the courage to divorce his wife? Yo, lady, I've banged tons of chicks over the years. You've seen my show. Some of them were terrible, but there was considerable quality in all that quantity. I don't need to pay for it, but I want to. The exchange of money for services is honest, is what I'm saying. There's no ulterior motive. The amount of thorns on the rose is reduced.

I think you've probably grasped the analogy that I'm trying to make. Not everybody gets it. I once tried to pay for it with a room full of roses. That didn't work out too well. The damn roses cost nearly as much as the sex, so I don't see what the big deal was. You're telling me she couldn't have taken those roses to a flower shop and gotten cold, hard cash? She just didn't want to work for it, that's all.

If there are any roses out there that are willing to get freaky in exchange for a bunch of flowers, then give me a call. 8576309. Hah, just kidding. Shoot me an email at Put "roses" in the subject line so it doesn't go to spam. Peace.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Curse of the Internet

You look up at the clock and realize you've been viewing funny cat videos for twelve hours straight. "Jesus," you say. That's one hour less than you spent yesterday. Some people would call that progress. You just call it the daily grind. You shrug and visit a forum dedicated to thoroughly analyzing all the possible sexual positions a man and a cartoon pony could hypothetically engage in. You look back up at the clock. One hour has passed. You place a mammoth hand in a mammoth bag of Cheetos and out comes more orange goodness. My, my, my. Look at your hand. Your fingernails are orange. You look like you've been fisting Tony the Tiger for hours. Curious, you google Tony the Tiger porn just to see what comes up. You spend an entire day perusing the results. In the end, you can definitely say you are attracted somewhat to anthropomorphic tigers. Real tigers, you're not so sure.

You visit a gaming web site to talk about how much you hate gaming. Back in the day, motherfuckers knew what the RPG stood for in RPG. No, asshole, it's not rocket-propelled grenade. Which reminds you that you haven't truly enjoyed a first person shooter since Quake. You type a ten-thousand word diatribe criticizing the human race for forgoing the arena shooter in favor of Call of Duty and Battlefield. Back in your day, kids knew how to rocket jump. Camping was for pussies. There was no such thing as DLC or "pay to play." Console gamers restricted themselves to JRPGs and Mario. Now everything's gone to shit. You sit back after finishing typing, confident that you've really changed some people's perspective on things. A hard day's work deserves another fistful of Cheetos. You shove as many as you can into your mouth.

Your next post is about Gamergate. It is so incoherent that even you hesitate before posting, if only for a millisecond. The jist is that women are evil, and so are gaming companies, and it's all up to keyboard warriors such as yourself to bring the controversy to light. No one replies to your post. You drink a liter of soda in consolation. Suddenly the lights flicker. You try to move, but your massive body doesn't react as quickly as you want it to. What is happening? Have they come for you, finally? Have they discovered your secret stash of illegal pornography? Or was it the animal stuff? Maybe it was all that torrenting you did in your youth. Oh God. Your computer. It won't turn on. The lights are off on your modem. You realize that you have no electricity. The minifridge isn't humming like it usually does. You watch the clock in silence. After fifteen minutes, you decide you have no choice. You try to throw yourself from the window but get stuck. It seems that you are too fat to die.

When the firefighters come eons later, you swallow your pride and admit that you have a problem. But then the lights kick on and your computer boots up. You sit down at the screen. "Worst. Day. Ever," you mumble to the invisible audience in your head. Thank Jesus for Internet porn.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Hanging with the Goon

I gets teh feelin' that somebodys makin' fun of my way of livin'.

Hi ya'll, this here's teh Goon, an here's to hopin' ya'll had a nice Christmas an New Years. I didn't get much fer Christmas, considerin' I was a bad boy, an Santa Claws don't reward bad boys wit nuttin' but coal an copies of auto trader. Slack says Santa don't come round here much ever since they tried to blow up his slay wit WD40 an gasoline. Ive been told taht since I was a child. As a boy I'd look ta teh sky an' try an see Santa flyin' an dropping bombs on us like he was Iranian or something. The Goon family Christmas tree is also somethin of a sad eyed affair. Last year we stole it from teh park, an all of us spent Christmas in jail, so dis year we did teh honest thing an stole on from WalMart. Teh Waltons don't need yer money ever sinse they got taht tv show; thear descendents have been livin' off of teh proceeds fer many moons, I reckon. That show sucks.

What ya'll do fer Christmas? I keep trying to get this email thing workin, but uncle Thom says you gotta be sure to make a good passwerd, unless you want teh North Koreans to know were you get all yur porn. That don't matter much to me; they can look at my porn as much as they like, I'm not teh jelious type. Hell, I once had a girlfiend named Cindy Laper and she passed herself 'round the Goon household like a handmedown dirt bike, an tahts how we all got siphelus. I outta call ol' Cindy Woo Hoo up. Teh Goon ain't had a good time in a long time, if ya know what I'm sayin.

Do ya'll ever look up at teh sky an wonder when teh aliens are coming down to take us up to alien heavven? Me an Hernando do taht often. Hernando says they gonna come pretty soon, just as soon as were done messin' up the planet wit Al Gore and fungicides an free internet pornos. Hernando says he's talkin to em wit his alien receiver, which looks like a cell phone from teh sixties, I'm guessin. He keeps it in a bushel basket in teh barn to hide it from Sammy. I took it out an looked at it an pressed some buttons an it started makin wierd sounds an I said "ET COME HOME!" an it started smokin an I put it down befere it burned my hands. Maybe I shuda made a collect call. I dunno waht taht is.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Pointless Venture's Games of 2014

Alien: Isolation looks phenomenal.

I didn't play a lot of games released this year, but here's the cream of the crop. All together, it was a fairly good year for gaming, with quality trumping quantity, and there were plenty of interesting releases that I haven't played yet (Far Cry 4, Wasteland 2, Dragon Age, Divinity, etc...) but there are always Steam sales to add to the collection, and I wanted to make sure my backlog didn't get too outrageous. Only buy something you plan on playing, unless you like wasting money.

Best RPG: Dark Souls 2--Probably my favorite game of the year, if I had to pick one. It looks better than the original, plays better than the original, is less frustrating than the original, yet it lacks a certain quality that Dark Souls had in spades. I think it comes down to world design--the original game had a vast, open world which the player was free to explore at will. Dark Souls 2's levels feel like separate arenas, cut off from each other, though they do have more variety than one might expect. Similarly, the vague story is less arresting than the tale of fallen gods in Dark Souls. Despite these minor complaints, I spent 90 hours in this game. Recommended to those who like deep action RPG and considerable challenge, though its difficulty is exaggerated (except for optional bosses: the gargoyles, ancient dragon, and the darklurker are harder than anything in the original game). Probably best to wait for the extended edition which adds new areas and includes graphical updates and DLC to come out later this year.

Best Shooter: Wolfenstein: New Order--Everyone remembers crawling through corridors of blue stone to shoot Nazis and eat dog food in Wolf3d. There are a couple of shout outs to that classic, but the new Wolfenstein feels closer to Half Life 2 and Dishonored in its world design, though there are hard hitting weapons and copious amounts of gore like a real Id game. It is simultaneously goofy and dark; there's a noir feel in protagonist's William Blazkowicz narration that's stylish instead of cliched. The shooting is the best I've experienced since Crysis--all the weapons are useful, and enemies dodge and flank well. I played it on Death Incarnate difficulty, which was challenging. Recommended to those who like single player first person shooters. There are some gruesome scenes (there are Nazis, after all) and some awkward video game sex, so if you're a prude, you probably shouldn't be playing a shooter in the first place.

Best Stealth/Horror/Survival Game: Alien: Isolation--Somehow, Creative Assembly made a game that accurately reflects the feel and themes of the original Alien film. This is a sneaker, not a shooter; you can't kill the alien, only hide from it and drive it away. Marooned on a decommissioned space station, every level has perfectly captured the retro-futuristic look of Alien. The environments look lived in and feel grimy and working-class. Think of the game as a non-RPG heir to System Shock 2. Recommended to those who aren't scared of video games and enjoy hiding in closets and air shafts.

Honorable mentions: The Banner Saga, Thief--I haven't play much of the Banner Saga, but I dig its graphics, which resemble a 70's animated film, as well as its turn-based combat. It might be a little heavy on fantasy politics, however. I also enjoyed the Thief reboot, to a certain degree. It wasted a lot of the excellent universe that the original series created, as well as crammed unnecessary button mashing sequences and boss fights into a Thief game (why, oh why?). It did, however, have a solid stealth system, and it looked pretty good. A wasted opportunity. Buy if on sale.   

Friday, January 9, 2015

Short Story: Wolf

Here's chapter one of a short story I'm working tentatively entitled "Wolf." I envision it being around twenty-thousand words or so.

Wolf: Chapter One
My father always hated Christmas. This was rather inconvenient for my brother and me, for as the day grew closer and closer, Dad became more and more cantankerous. Our natural enthusiasm for yuletide waned year after year, to the great chagrin of our mother. Mom loved Christmas. She loved decorating, stringing lights, placing ornaments, putting the dogs in ill-fitting costumes. She loved the story of Christmas as well, the virgin birth, the miraculous Christ-child, the coming of the Magi, the angels singing in the heavens. It was a tradition to read the story before opening presents. Father was never present for the reading or gift-giving. He'd always buy us something, usually an odd object that we hadn't asked for (I received a razor and shaving cream when I was nine years old), but he never wanted to see our faces, our muffled looks of disappointment. My father just couldn't handle witnessing the joy or displeasure a gift could bring. He was a strange man. My brother claims to have seen him sneaking in through our window stark naked one Christmas night, his body hairless and covered in scars. Dad got in a lot of fights; I do remember that. He never struck us. He never had to. We lived in perpetual fear of the prospect of Father's anger. You could see it boiling beneath the surface of his skin, a dark, seething rage, implacable, unreasonable, genetic, I guess.

It is November twenty-ninth, and the old anxiety returns, this time in my own household. My name is Harrison Deforest, and I live in a small town in southern Indiana with my wife Debra and her daughters Brittany and Chastity, and I don't know what to get them for Christmas. Some sort of toy should be fine for Brittany, she being eight years old, but Chastity, a teenager, is impossible to shop for. This is a yearly struggle for me. Maybe if they were my blood children, it would be different. I could've had some time to figure out the process. But I am not their father; I am Harry, the guy who sleeps with their mother. I am the breadwinner, the chauffeur, the Voice of Reason, but I am not Dad, which is okay with me, really. I will perform the functions of the office sans title, because there is power in a name, connotations that are impossible to ignore. That scowling face in the anteroom hiding from the shadow of the Christmas tree can belong to Harry, not Dad. I wouldn't want to scar anyone's perception of a sacred holiday.

Outside it is beginning to snow, light flakes of ash settling on my lawn. The weatherman said it was a bad day for going outside, that the acidity levels would be high, the air almost poisonous to breath, and he's right, for once. Our house is in a brand new suburb called Willow Lakes, though there are no willow trees, and the lake is just a chemically-treated pond. The air filtration system in our home is top-notch, a real improvement from the place where we had been living. You can take a nice, long, clean breath and not start gagging. There are talks of installing a bubble around the whole burb to create a microclimate. That way, on bad days, you could still go outside. It's this sort of progressivism that keeps us happy we moved here. Chastity says that the place lacks character, but she's being a teenager. She'd find something wrong with wherever we lived.

I pull myself away from the window and go to the living room where my family is relaxing. Debra is watching television; Chastity is texting on her phone, while Brittany plays a game on hers. The computer sits by the window, away from the couch and the television, its empty screen beckoning to me. My wife asks me to come watch television with her, and I comply. Debra likes to recline. She is pretty, soft, and doe-eyed, a placid creature, one made to be held. I put my arm around her shoulders and commence watching the screen. Some women are bickering at each other; one is short and stout, with the face of troll, while the other is tall and full of fangs, spittle flying from her tongue. The volume is soft, but these women are shouting, their curses bleeped, the vitriol seeping through like a wound that won't clot. My wife is absorbed in their argument; either that, or she's zoning out, dialing in to another world. Our dog, Rufus, comes in and paws at my leg. I shake his paw like a gentlemen, and get up to fit a mask over his snout. I put my own on, and we go outside.

It's difficult for a dog to sniff something with a mask over his muzzle, but Rufus goes through the motions, trampling over dying mums and broken branches, his urine flowing forth at random intervals. I stare absent-mindedly at the road, noting the lack of traffic. It's quiet out here, the woods looming on a hillside behind our house. You see deer every once in a while, though some of them don't look so healthy, their pelts scarred by acid rain, their lungs corroded by greenhouse gases. The world is an environmental disaster of an unprecedented scale, according to a talking head on television yesterday. I don't think about it too much, despite the daily inconveniences. I still remember when you could go outside without a mask everyday and when gas prices were below six dollars a gallon. Either Rufus's muted sense of smell found something, or his intuition is good, for he's frantically digging up the earth, sending clods my way, trying to get at a rodent. He doesn't think of consequences; he just acts, like an animal. Were Debra witnessing this, she'd put a stop to it with shrieking. He's ruining the yard, Harry. But there's nothing to ruin. The grass is brown, and the flowers have died, and no amount of nitrates this time of year would restore them to health. I say let him do as he does. That's what we all do, right?

My neighbor waddles out his front door with his own beast, an obese pug named Charles. He waves, but Charles starts barking, his little yips furious and full of righteous indignation and murderous intent. Rufus just stares at him like he's a moron; Rufus belongs to a higher class of canine, and has more control over his emotions. I can tell he wants to go over there and tear fat Charles a new one, but like a good animal, he looks up at me, knowing that decorum must be preserved at all costs, and goes back to his hole to see if anything can be discovered.

"How's it going, Howard?" asks Ronald. Ronald is a middle-aged Latino man, a banker. I estimate that he tips the scales at around three-hundred and fifty pounds.

"My heart is filled with the Christmas spirit. I wish good will to everyone," I reply
"You guys don't celebrate Kwanza?" asks Ronald, semi-serious. He gives fat Charles a little kick to shut him up.

"Do you actually know anybody that celebrates Kwanza?" I ask.

"I'm just shitting you, buddy. What are you going to get the girls?"

"Hell, I don't know," I admit. "I'm putting off buying their gifts to the last minute. I've been a life long procrastinator. No reason to change now."

"People don't change," replies Ronald. "I've always been fat. I was a chunky kid, a husky teenager, a stocky young man. When I was a lineman in college I was bulky. Rosa would like me to be skinnier. The doctor would like me to lose "significant weight.' But it's not gonna happen, and not just because I lack the willpower to do it. Being fat is part of my identity. It's who I am. How can I change that? I've spent my life binge eating, binge drinking. I'm jolly, good-natured. I detest exercise and movement in general. There are too many integral components involved for me to become a lesser version of myself. I'd have to buy new clothes. Watch what I eat. Who can do that? Who has the time for that?"

I think of my father slinking in at night, smelling of drink, almost unrecognizable sometimes, his face transformed, mud oozing off his boots like primordial slime. I nod my head in agreement. People don't change, at least not in any important way.

"What a nice day," says Ronald. "Ash isn't too bad. I could probably take off this mask and not get cancer. Hah. You have a good day, neighbor."

"You as well," I say, watching him and his fat dog waddle up the steps and into their home. I look back at my house. It's a rectangular design, generic, chemically-treated brick with windows that maximize sunlight retention while keeping out harmful toxins and diseased air. It looks like Ronald's house. It looks like every house in our burb. Sometimes I think that safety and progress come at the expense of individual expression. I grew up in a neighborhood of varied houses filled with various people, good, bad, and in-between. You could tell someone's character by how much junk was sitting on their front porch. We don't have a porch. No one wants to sit outside with a filtration mask on.
I leave work early, a rare privilege. I work at the local casino as an IT guy. My supervisor is in Indianapolis for the next couple days, so I am free to function as an autonomous unit, a great relief. The place is dead, there are no foreseeable problems on the horizon, and I'm inexplicably tired, so I see no reason to linger. As I'm exiting toward the parking lot, Jody, a cocktail waitress, calls out to me.

"Hey, smart guy," she says. We stand in the shadow of the casino, the parking lot stretched out before us, the moon a big full beacon in the cloudless night sky.

"I'm just a guy, really," I tell her. "What I do isn't that hard."

"Isn't it?" she says. Jody is pretty: dark-hair, olive-eyes, nice figure. She's the kind of woman I would've pursued in my youth with a reckless abandon. I've been shunning her advances for what seems like eons.

"You want to get a drink?" she asks, touching my arm. I examine her hand: long-fingered, veiny, nails as red as blood.

"I should probably get home to my wife," I tell her.

"Hey, you got off early, right? Got an hour to kill. Just one or two drinks. It's not a date."
I've always been a nice guy, which has brought me much pain and suffering over the years. What the hell, I think. You don't have to sleep with her. Live a little.

"Alright," I say. "I do have an hour. Where to?"

"The Bear. Let's take your car. My boyfriend will pick me up."

"Your boyfriend, huh?" I ask. "He won't care that you're having drinks with another man?"

"He doesn't have to know," she replies. I shrug; we walk to my car, a blue Honda Civic. As we drive to the bar, I wonder what Debra is fixing for dinner. Hopefully not casserole. I could go my entire life without eating chicken and rice ever again.

The Bear is a townie bar, a local joint which I've entered probably once or twice, though not in a while. It has wood paneling, oak floors, pool tables, clouds of cigarette smoke, uncomfortable seats. Jody gives the bartender a friendly hello; he gives me a hard stare that I'm not unaccustomed to receiving in this town. When I go to Chastity's volleyball games, I often get the same look, sitting next to Debra. This place is behind the times in many ways.

"Give me a High Life," she tells the bartender. I order the same.

"You want a cigarette?" she asks.

"I don't smoke," I tell her.

"You ever tried it?" she asks.

"I'm a forty-year-old man, Jody. I've tried a cigarette before."

"Just making sure. You're a little uptight, Harry. I get the jist that you care too much about things."

"I think you've mistaken me for someone else," I tell her, truthfully.

"I hope so," she says, smiling. She has good teeth, for a local. I sip my beer and look about the place. It's empty, just like the casino. The bartender has a drooping mustache like a cowboy left out in the rain.

"I don't go out a lot," I tell her. "How's this bar?"

"It's a joint like any other," she says. She lights up a cigarette and takes a long drag. Her uniform, if you can call it that, reveals the tops of her breasts. I try my best not to look.

"How old are you, Harry?" asks Jody.

"Thirty-eight years-old," I tell her. "How old are you?"

"Thirty-two. I don't care. A lot of women don't like giving their age. Who gives a shit, right? I mean, I guess it matters, if you're going to be judgmental. I'm a thirty-two year-old cocktail waitress. Some people might not like to admit that. Twenty-eight year-old cocktail waitress sounds better. I think I could pass for twenty-eight. Not twenty-two, but twenty-eight. But I don't care, you know? I look how I look. I'm a good-looking thirty-two. Right?" She leans over, touches my arm. I smile, cooperating despite my instincts telling me to leave, to go home to my wife and the placidity of the internet.

“You're very pretty,” I say, motioning to the bartender for another beer.

“I like your skin. Is that bad? It's so smooth, so regular. It looks like it was painted on. No blotchiness, no unhealthy paleness. You don't have to worry about getting a tan.”

“A minor convenience, I assure you,” I say. “My color brings more difficulties than benefits.”

“Life's difficult. You're better for it.” She takes a long sip of her beer. “Why do we drink this stuff? It's not that good, you know. We should drink better beer.”

“There's a microbrewery in Dawn,” I suggest. “I've never been there, but their beer is very good.”

“We should go sometime,” replies Jody.

“I don't I know,” I say.

“You should be able to have friends, right? Just because you're married doesn't mean you can't have female friends.”

“You sure?” I ask. My beer has the sour taste of a bottle left out in the heat.

“Yeah, why not? The more friends you have, the longer you'll live. It's been scientifically proven.”

“That's a fact, huh?”

“It certainly is. You're a gentleman, aren't you? You're not like the normal meatheads I encounter on a daily basis. This attracts meatheads,” she gestures at her outfit, “like sugar attracts flies. Touchy-feely types who think a good tip entitles them to grope as much as they please. Their definition as to what consists of a good tip varies considerably from my own.”

“I'm sorry to hear that. I heard it's tough over there. Business isn't booming like it was.”

“It should be a bullet-proof business model. People give you their money. But they haven't done any upgrades for about five years, and meanwhile, Cincinnati's casinos are closer and booking bigger acts, offering better deals. There's no reason to drive all the way out here to the boonies. What made you come out here, by the way?”

“A pay raise, my wife, the promise of a simple life,” I say, automatically like a machine. “Debra and I met in St. Louis. She didn't want the girls growing up in the city.”

“You live in the burb enclave, right? I hear they're thinking about installing one of those bubbles so you can have a microclimate. That'll be nice, spending time outside. I miss it. You have to really pay attention to the weather, and then everybody's out, crowding the highways. I used to have a nice tan, Harry. But I won't pay for it. I'd rather look like a ghost.”

A hand falls on my shoulder, a whiskery face appearing in my peripheral vision. Jody squints her eyes, a sour look appearing on her oval visage. It better not be some redneck, I find myself thinking. I don't feel like getting in a fight.

“Hey buddy,” says Rob Kaminskey. “Don't often see you in the local watering hole.”

“Killing time,” I tell him. Rob is a slot machine mechanic, a good ol' boy whom I've befriended.

“Hey, I was thinking about going out to my parents' old place this weekend to do some hunting, and I thought maybe you'd like to come along,” says Rob, plopping down on the seat next to mine. “The weather is supposed to be great. I got some good, comfortable masks, and there's plenty of deer out there. Looking forward to some homemade jerky. I know you love that stuff, Harry. You want to come?”

“I don't have much experience hunting,” I reply.

“It'll be a boys' weekend,” Rob says, smiling at Jody. “We'll bring beer and bratwurst, shoot some guns. It's beautiful out there. You can get away from the wife and kids.” I look back at Jody, who's paying attention to her beer. I shrug, contemplating a weekend spent with Rob instead of with the computer or television.

“Sure, why the hell not?” I tell him.

“That's what I expected to hear.” He slaps me on the back with one of his meaty hands. “How you doing, Jody?” he asks. “How're your kids?”

“Fine,” she says, not looking at us.

“You have kids?” I ask. “How many?”

“Enough,” says Jody, finishing her beer and checking her cellphone. “I got to go. See you around, Harry.” We watch her leave, her ass looking as though it were sculpted by a master. Rob orders a beer and then looks at me, his unibrow raised. His nose is broad, his cheekbones wide, his forehead spacious and increasing by the year. He has a homely, good-natured face, trustworthy in its expression, the visage of a confidant.

“Things going okay with Debra?” he asks.

“Yeah. I decided to humor Jody. She wanted to get a drink. She's been after me for years.”

“You don't humor that kind of woman,” says Rob. “She's got one hell of a figure, I'll admit. But she ain't one for sticking with a guy, and she sure as hell ain't someone you wanna be messing with if you're married.”

“It was just a drink, Rob. That was all.”

“She might not interpret it that way. But you're your own man. You can do what you want.”
I come home to the same scene I left. Debra is still watching television, this time a home improvement program, while the girls lie about, playing with their cellphones. I go into the kitchen, take a beer, and sit down next to my wife. No one says anything; everyone is absorbed in passive electronic entertainment. My wife leans into me, her body radiating heat and comfort. The beer goes down smoothly like a lullaby. Pretty soon, I'm asleep.

In the dream, I'm running down a city street, my bare feet stepping on broken shards of glass. A crowd chases me, yelling slurs and racial taunts. None of them have any faces; there's just blackness where their heads should be. They corner me in an alley and push me up against the wall, their fingernails digging into my flesh. I can feel the heat of their invisible breath; I can taste their spittle as it flies from their black-hole heads. I wake up in a sweat, the ceiling swirling above me, my wife away from me, on the other side of our bed. Jesus, I whisper. The air recyclers kick in with a loud, throbbing buzz, their racket forcing me from the bed. I step over Rufus and head for the kitchen. Chastity is at the table, talking quietly to someone on her phone. She's dressed in a sleeveless top and a pair of short shorts; her toes curl on the linoleum, their nails painted bright red. She's a younger, prettier version of her mother, and I find a verse of some forgotten poem coming to me out of the ether: Youth is its own aphrodisiac. Finally she sees me lurking in the hallway like a monster afraid to come out of the gloom.

“Harry?” she asks, covering the phone with her hand. “What are you doing?”

“I came in for a glass of water,” I explain. “Who are you talking to?”

“I got to go,” I hear her mumble into the phone. She looks at me, annoyed, convinced that I have invaded her privacy and exceeded my bounds as a stepfather.

“Your mother wouldn't want you talking on the phone at this hour,” I tell her.

“Oh, who gives a shit, Harry?” she says, getting up from the chair. She pushes past me and enters her room. I walk over to the sink and fill up a glass of water. It's only after I finish that I realize that I have an erection. God, did she notice? The kitchen is cold; it feels as though my feet are walking on ice. I wonder if the air recyclers have malfunctioned. But did she see? Was it her or the dream?
It takes me some time to fall asleep.