My pal Ken Flagg is writing a new song every week for 52 weeks. Desperate, he asked if I’d write something and record myself reading it so he could skip coming up with lyrics for a week. Some of the stories I posted here recently were aborted attempts at that, but we decided the one about Henry, Texas could work.
Give it a listen and check out his other tunes while you’re there. They’re not all super creepy!
I must call your attention to an important change I made to a recent story posted here entitled The Sex Restaurant.
The Croc-wearing man originally had a chest tattoo that said BUSH SIXTEEN STONE because a song from that album (“Everything Zen”) was playing on the cruddy internet radio station at work as I was writing the story. Then I thought that might be confusing or off-putting so I changed it to BUSH GLYCERINE which I found to be an evocative phrase, particularly when tattooed upon a chest.
But then I thought maybe no one even remembers that song so I changed it to WIERD AL, hoping the “randomness” and misspelling would make the reader … well, not laugh, certainly, but perhaps nod with grim satisfaction?
But just now I remembered I made the character British at the last minute and thought Bush, being a British band (although not successful in the UK) would be a more appropriate chest tattoo and so I have changed it back to BUSH GLYCERINE, which I always preferred. If you perchance read the story the other day and found it lacking, I encourage you to revisit it and see it in a whole new light.
P.S. I shall never forget my friend Bob and I listening to “Everything Zen” when it came out and being confused because it was loud and heavy and guitar-y like the bands we liked, so why was it so awful? We couldn’t articulate it but knew we were in trouble.
I was born during that blackout a few years back so it was pretty dark in the hospital and no one really knew what was going on. Hence the horrific forceps scar on my face and the screwy spine and the weird foot. Doc used his zippo to see which gender I was and that didn’t work out too well for me either.
When I started junior high, kids couldn’t decide how to make fun of me so they went with calling me Just Generally Gross.
Last summer I got a job acting in a commercial for Coke White, a milk-colored soda that Coca-Cola hoped would resonate with the Caucasian market. All I did was sit there while the narrator said the famous slogan: Feel like this asshole looks? Maybe Coke White will turn shit around for you, I dunno. Then I sipped some through my special medical straw and was transformed by video trickery into an erotic white lady. That made me about $27,000 after taxes.
I used the money to pay my classmates to shorten my nickname to The General, and it mostly stuck. It’s a little thing, but names are important and I think it’s changed the way that one girl Melissa sees me. The winter dance is coming up and I really wouldn’t mind going with her. I’m not the greatest dancer but I can see us hanging out on the back steps, talking about our teachers, maybe I loan her my coat, maybe we can see some stars, maybe somebody says something funny.
I hear my daughter scream and am in her room in two breaths. It takes a moment for my eyes to adjust but then I see the giant spider-leech creeping in through her window. I snatch the scythe I keep dangling over her bed for just such an emergency and am about to hack away when the monster puts up four or five twitching legs in defense and cries, “Don’t, man!”
I say give me one good reason and it chitters: “I just want to be friends. I’m so lonely. I’m the only one of my kind.”
My daughter tells the giant spider-leech to fuck off back to hell but I tell her to calm down. I invite it inside and ask where it came from and it says Phoenix originally. My wife sticks her head in and her hair turns white and she goes insane. The monster spies our dog Lt. Furpants and wraps him in some kind of gross cocoon and consumes him whole. Now my kid is having a full-on temper tantrum so I tell her to go get a fruit roll-up and take it down a couple notches.
I apologize for the histrionics and the giant spider-leech—sorry, Sha-Golgoth the Soul Raper—and I enjoy an invigorating, wide-ranging chat. It “accidentally” strokes my leg with a viscid tendril. We drain a box of Chablis. By dawn we’re across state lines in a rental car filled with the stench of nervous, giddy intercourse, driving full-bore into an unwritten future. I glance in its 1,000 eyes and notice a hint of doubt but decide it’s nothing, nothing.
I’m at the salad bar tonging some cukes when I notice the maître d’ running at me, brandishing a dagger and bellowing syllables. KNIFE FITE, my mind cries.
I grab a butter knife and flip it into a reverse grip, pikal-style, to deflect his attack. It is a KNIFE FITE. Our weapons clang terribly. I block out the shrieks of nearby scared ladies. I use deception, feints, speed, ferocity and controlling tactics. I do a wild flip and sever the sciatic nerve in the back of his thigh, ending the skirmish.
Later, in jail, I have time to ponder why I get involved in so many KNIFE FITES. It seems wherever I go someone wants to challenge the king. I guess it’s kind of my burden?
I look up from my reverie and see my cellmate coming at me with a shiv made out of a piece of toilet. I shake my head and grin ruefully for it is yet another KNIFE FITE [to be continued]
—I knew it. You’re out of breath and nude except for my bra wrapped around your head, I assume as some sort of makeshift hachimaki? And Bey’s crib lies in splintered fragments at your feet. Why did you do this.
—I had to karate something. You know how it is when you have to karate something.
—Where is our child going to sleep?
—I dunno, the futon? The woods? Who cares.
—You’re just like my father and that’s why I love you.
Anyway I’m keeping it real at the OfficeMax, there in the printer paper aisle, feeling pretty good about being born and alive and in this moment. Not to brag but I’ve got some extra bills in my roll since the Lady Speed Stick settlement so I decide to splurge on the Premium Elite. I figure my beautiful words deserve to nestle their heads ‘pon something with a precipitously high thread count, so.
I go home and the glistening ream sits there for about a year because I don’t write anything, choosing instead to focus on eating lots of different kinds of cured meats and perfecting my crying jags. But then one day I type out a poem I think is worthy of being printed on the good stuff and staplegun’d to that one telephone pole out by the train yard where the tougher, edgier writers post their work?
So I open the package of paper and slide out a sheet and notice it’s covered with bloody fingerprints! I resolve at once to get to the bottom of this mystery. I fashion a magnifying glass from a shattered bottle of gin on my bedroom floor and some nearby licorice. I peer in close and immediately recognize the distinctive “tri-tittied” whorl pattern on the print—for it is mine!!
Then I realize I cut my fingies on the edges of the Premium Elite. They are extremely sharp! Clean-close-shave, cut-to-feel-something sharp. I nod, impressed. I feed the bloodstained page into the printer, which I got for free with the purchase of a 22 oz. Slurpee, convinced it would make my poem even better because what is poetry but one’s own passionate bloody gore splashed upon the page? Like, the page of society?
I pass out from blood loss, come to, reread the poem (Do you dare strike / Dat ass / And ride the quivering quake / To the foul Cauldron within), set the whole pack of paper on fire and then stare at nothing for a while, gnawing on a Hickory Farms Summer Sausage, vowing to try again next year.
My barber lost his legs in Korea. He will only do one of the ten styles shown on the ancient poster taped above the cash register. He stares at nothing while I make my decision, which takes forever. I finally settle on The Junior Executive and am immediately filled with buyer’s remorse. He uses a straight razor on my sideburns and I get a good close look at his tobacco-stained fingers. You ever nick someone with that thing? I ask, my voice cold. Only when they ask stupid questions, he says.
My friend Dennis is kind of infuriating. He’s smart and funny. He’s a good husband and father. He gets up early to work out. He’s really into boxing and Baroque music. He makes furniture. He grows giant pumpkins in his yard at a competitive level. He’s basically a man, which is gross.
Worst of all, he’s a good writer. And his novel Fellow Mortals is being published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. I’m super proud.
But I’m even MORE proud of this Q&A he did with ME. Because it is about ME, who is a DELIGHT. I talk about regular centaurs and and normal cocaine and not being a man.
The song “Iron Man” was originally entitled “Iron Bloke.” Upon hearing the main guitar riff for the first time, Osbourne remarked that it sounded “like a big iron bloke walking about.” The title was later changed to “Iron Man.”
The folks taught her to erect a second roof when building a desert shelter. Balsam fir resin makes an excellent antiseptic for treating cuts and abrasions. Douse bait with cod liver oil. Disguise your scent with the smoke from green pine needles on a campfire. Cattails are one of the most abundant and best-tasting plants out there. The Pileated Woodpecker digs his home facing east.
Also: artificial accents and gaits. Breaking your fall from a significant height. Following someone who is behind you. Ventriloquism. Echolocation. Non-sleeping. Temporary heart-stopping. Basic grip-loosening maneuvers.
All learned between the ages of 0 and 13 when the family was on the run, never staying in the same town for more than a couple weeks, a series of B.O.-scented motel rooms, humidity and sore throats and ticket-takers speaking Farsi and Swedish and Maasai. In the evenings Mom would quiz her on exchange rates while Pop made phone calls in the bathroom with the faucet running.