Monday, June 8, 2015
Are these white plates mine or yours? the woman asks. She is stacking dinner plates into large cardboard moving boxes. The kitchen is full of boxes. They are piled everywhere from floor to ceiling. There are boxes in the sink and in the pantry. There is a small box in the microwave. The microwave is in a box in the oven.
Which ones? the man asks. He is sitting at the table on the one chair not covered in a stack of something.
The white ones, the woman says.
There’s like three different white ones, the man says.
Well which one’s did you bring? the woman asks.
I didn’t bring any, the man says.
So they’re mine then, the woman says.
They could be Chris’s, the man says.
The man opens one of the boxes at the table and looks inside. Where did all of this stuff come from, he thinks. He can’t remember seeing the apartment this full when they lived there.
They had lived there for a year. In that time they had made new friends and stopped seeing each other as often. This is just how it happened, they both thought.
Okay, whatever, I’ll just leave them then, the woman says.
Well take them if you want, I don’t care, the man says.
I don’t want them if they aren’t mine, the woman says. She looks around. I have enough stuff already.
You might as well take them, the man says. I’ll just leave them when I move out.
Why would you do that, the woman asks.
I don’t know, the man says. Because they’re not mine.
The woman holds up one of the plates to the little crack of light that is escaping the mountain of boxes.
Yea but they are perfectly good plates, she says.
Well then you take them, he says.
I can’t. I honestly don’t have any more room, she says.
Why don’t you ask Jack if he wants them.
She puts the plate back down onto the pile.
Hey, come on. Let’s not do that, she says.
Do what? he says. He’s probably got some room at his place, it would be a shame to see these plates go to waste, right?
Please don’t do this. I’m almost done. Let’s just be adults, the woman says.
I am being an adult, the man says.
Great, the woman says.
She opens the refrigerator and pulls out another box and starts piling forks and knives and cheese graters into it.
Eventually she finishes packing everything and leaves.
She comes back the next morning with Jack and they take everything away.
The man hears them but does not come downstairs.
Now that she is gone the apartment is empty.
The man goes downstairs and sits in the living room. The apartment feels small without all the boxes in it.
He goes into the kitchen and finds that she has left him the white plates, neatly stacked next to an empty cardboard box.
He wonders if this was the only box she hadn’t packed.
Thursday, June 4, 2015
So I’ve switched on the computer which is nested into the nook underneath the stairs. I’m settling down to it in a chair with a glass of vodka and coke in my right hand and then I hear this god-awful noise coming from outside the house. Immediately I think burglar. I’m not shitting myself or anything but I’m looking around me for a weapon. There’s a scraping sound, a metallic clang. I think perhaps the burglar is starting off by breaking into next door so for now I am safe. I look over the stair rail but as the door has frosted glass I cannot see anything. All I can hear is a lot of screeching coming from what sounds like professional equipment then I begin to think: hold on that sounds way too close and maybe the burglar is in my back garden and my house has been chosen. In what case why the hell has nobody called the police? Neighbours around here are so strict on strangers. They call police on seeing the window cleaners but then a window cleaner up 5 feet against your house on a ladder, greasing your bedroom window and washing it down is pretty creepy when you might be in the bedroom, on the bed, in a state of undress and getting down to it, when you think about it.
I get on my feet, I’m in tights and they squeak on the tile flooring. I search around for a weapon, the noise outside growing all the more urgent. It has been ten minutes, how long can this burglar possibly take to get inside a house?. Oh Lord, Oh Lord have mercy. I gulp my drink, feeling dizzy. I hear the slam of a car door and the computer hard drive begins to judder, like it’s gonna take off. Jeez Louise what a slow pot Annie this burglar is. I scratch my neck, exploring the love bite on my neck with my fingers as I tilt my head. I am listening and am gathering no sense of the situation whatsoever. As I seize a vase from the kitchen and march towards the front door the sound is suddenly muffled and then stops. I am left flinging open the door like a Matadors cape and holding it with the vase above my head. Nobody outside.
Thursday, May 28, 2015
I handed the clerk my
but the dumb bitch
could not read my writing
and looked at me as if
I had two heads
and when I told her “hurry up”
she acted like she was waiting for the bus
I shot her
and then I shot the manager
who came running out of the office
like a hero
and he died on the floor over by
and I got out of there
they both died for a hundred bucks apiece
which was chicken-shit
but that clerk
she should have been able to read
and that manager
he was just
Monday, May 25, 2015
They were headed out of Cleveland- on their way to Buffalo for a cousin’s wedding- when they saw it off to the right- “THE FOOD BANK”- and from that moment on, they knew that they were going to rob it.
Thursday, May 21, 2015
“You see?” he asked, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, the little nerd, with his thick-rimmed glasses, half-starved frame and checkered shirt.
I shook my head. His latest experiment looked ridiculous. Two stoppered glass cylinders, one filled with smoke wafting in through a nozzle somewhere at the upper end, the other one clear. A slab of meat in each. The meat on the right side, in the otherwise empty receptacle, was perfect. I craved it. The one on the left, uh, I thought I’d rather pass. Greenish, moldy, and decomposing even as I watched it.
“What’s your point?” I wanted to know.
“It’s a calf’s lung,” came the distracted reply. He was rummaging around his work desk, throwing drawers open, his movements getting more frantic by the moment. “See what the smoke does to it?”
I frowned. “What’s in there?” I pointed at the right cylinder.
“Nothing as in it’s a vacuum?”
“Yeah.” He was patting his pockets now.
I shook my head again. I couldn’t believe it. “You absolutely fail to make your point, you know? Vacuum. You know what a vacuum lacks?”
“Well, the smoke, obviously.”
“The smoke. Yeah.” I spoke slowly, like to a dumb child. “And everything else. Like bacteria. Or oxygen.”
“What has that got to do with anything?” He sounded hysterical, but it was nothing I had said. He was still searching like mad.
“Things decompose when in contact with oxygen,” I explained with a sigh. “That lung would probably look much the same if you simply blew air in instead of the smoke.”
“Oh.” His eyes darted around the room, locked onto something on a nearby shelf, and lit up. He jumped forward and all but flew past me to snatch up his precious find. I heard a rustle, and a very familiar click. “In that case,” he mumbled, turning back to me. A burning cigarette hung from his mouth and he proffered the open pack. “Want one?”
Monday, May 18, 2015
Beryl is a 45-year-old anorexic who guzzles diet Coke out of one-liter bottles that she keeps in a cooler in her car. She drives a mineral green Infiniti that has built-in GPS navigation, a remote keyless entry system, heated seats, and something called intelligent cruise control. She fiddles with the multi-CD stereo while she drives, clinging to her soda with her steering hand and barely managing to stay in her own lane. She feigns annoyance at the car’s bells and whistles and pretends not to hear drivers who honk at her.
She lives in a lavish home in an exclusive neighborhood with a husband she no longer fucks. Together, they have three children who are flawless on the outside and as skilled as their mother at pretending their lives are perfect. Every day in Beryl’s life is much like the previous, full of shopping and spa treatments and making sure she looks shiny and new.
Every Thursday she drives to the shitty side of town to take a court-ordered piss test. These are the days she pops her Magic Clean capsules—guaranteed to clear cocaine and alcohol out of her system—and guzzles water, instead of her usual diet Coke. Afterwards, she meets a gentleman friend who makes her yip and yowl until it’s time to pick up her children from school.
Exactly twelve seconds before she died, Beryl pulled out her compact to check her make-up as she walked out the front door of the piss clinic last Thursday. She stepped off the curb and never saw the truck coming. She and her brand new Gucci stilettos were flattened. They say the undertaker insisted on a closed casket.
Thursday, May 14, 2015
The fucking dentist called again. I let the Radio Shack answering machine pick it up. It was his receptionist. She has a nasal, whiney voice. Please call us, Mr. McEwan. Your bill is past due. Blah-blah and then she tells me to have a nice day. Yeah, right.
That fucking dentist. His name is Whittlesen and the bastard pricked my gum with one of his shiny sharp instrument and then said you have an infection there see the blood. He held you a little mirror. It should come out. You naturally believe these kind of pricks. A lot of shit proceeds their names and the wall of their offices are crowded with the requisite diplomas and other official awards and citations. You’ll need a bridge back there, he said.
Idiotically I told him to pull the tooth. It was the first tooth I’d lost. I was a virgin. It sounded like popcorn popping in the microwave as he yanked and pulled and extracted it from my skull. I was novacained, so felt nada. I would have preferred a shot of morphine, but they don’t do that. Not unless you were run over by a garbage truck.
A month later he put in the bridge. It was like roadwork with stinky glue and chemicals that would probably kill a lab rat.
Then the bill. Lord in fucking heaven. I had a factory job and the bill put a major crimp in my mundane lifestyle. Had to drop the quality of beer I was drinking a couple notches and cut out the pints of Canadian whiskey. I lived in a falling down apartment in Detroit, so the rent wasn’t an issue. Ditto on my ride. A monster 1973 Pontiac La Disaster with used tires and a temperamental radiator. I bought it for three hundred bucks from a guy who said his brother-in-law owned it before he died from cancer.
As I pondered the extraction and bridge in my struggle to pay the bill I ended up convinced Whittlesen had staged the whole fucking thing. There was nothing wrong with my tooth. It was sacrificed for his yacht and house out in Oakland County and the Harvard U education of his twat simpering son or daughter who would either go into dentistry, law or loan sharking.
I replayed the tape. Whittlesen’s receptionist sounded like a duck on Prozac. I went in the bedroom and reached under the mattress and brought out Willie. He’s a Charter Arms snubnose .38 like you see in those lame 70s cop shows. Effective because it is loud. If you’re going to kill some crack head climbing through your bedroom window at three in the morning you want to do it loudly. Just in case his buddies are out there lurking around in the shadows. Dogs should naturally bark loud and have deadly and irreversible bites.
I walked out there and pointed Willie at the Radio Shack answering machine. Drew a bead on the fake chrome knob and the blinking LED light that told me Whittlesen wanted his fucking money. Cocked the hammer. Gritted my teeth and squinted. Pulled the trigger.
Shit. I had forgotten to load it after I’d cleaned it. Just as well. I needed the machine in case one of my old girlfriends called and said she couldn’t live without me and my suave Don Juan ways.
Yeah, right. And then I wished for a pony.
Thursday, May 7, 2015
donald was a regular guy who did not have very high expectations.
he wanted people to like him or at least ignore him.
he did not understand life or his fellow humans very well but hoped to improve in that regard.
one day he was felling a bit nervous about some applications he had made to participate in certain activities.
he decided to relieve his nervousness by going for a walk.
at the last minute before embarking on his journey he decided to take a carrot with him to munch as he walked along.
this proved to be a mistake.
it was a pleasant enough day and there were many other people on the street besides donald.
all of them noticed that donald was eating a carrot and most of them made some comment, either to a companion or to the air or directly to donald.
“dude, how’s the carrot?”
“that guy is eating a carrot.”
“mmm – good vitamins.”
“look at that person – is he doing what i think he’s doing?”
“it’s always a good day for a carrot.”
“i don’t believe this.”
“bro, try rutabaga some time – easier to digest.”
“down the street eating a fucking carrot.”
donald did not enjoy these attentions but he did not want to throw the carrot away either – he felt that would represent some sort of obscure defeat.
and would be littering.
he did not want to put the half eaten carrot with his teeth marks in his pocket – that seemed unsanitary.
the climax came when he was stopped by a broad-shouldered young man with a posse of five other young persons, male and female, tagging behind him.
the young man pointed a finger not quite in donald’s chest and with a white laugh, announced – “i know what you’re doing.”
donald was too startled to answer.
“you’re making a movie, right?” the young man looked, or pretended to look, up and down the street. “where’s your buddy with the camera?”
“he’s filming it himself,” said one of the entourage. “he’s got a camera in his shirt pocket.”
donald still didn’t know how to respond. one of the two young women in the group grabbed the arm of there first young man.
“come on, adam, you don’t have to be a total dick every minute of every day.”
the group moved off, laughing. donald heard the first young man say “nobody eats a fucking carrot in the street -”
donald finally got home safely. he felt that the nutrition he had obtained from the carrot and the fresh air and exercise from the walk had been more than offset by the relentless mockery he had received.
he never walked down the street eating a carrot, or any other vegetable, again.
Monday, May 4, 2015
“Apt pupils like you should see our new biology lab.”
Flattered, she followed her headmaster.
They entered the room.
She noticed a gurney standing in the corner. Something caught her eye and she got closer. Someone, white-shrouded, was lying there. She shuddered. A notebook labeled “Ancient Rites: The Egyptian Mummification Process” was on his chest. She recognized it as her work, written in A4 polka dot spiral bound notebook, that she had submitted to him at the end of the semester.
“What’s …” she muttered.
She turned to leave but he blocked her way.
“Sorry dear, but you would replace the mummy on the gurney,” he said. “You fit in, perfectly!”
Monday, April 27, 2015
You can smell Paignton long before you can see it. It’s one of the few things I like about this town…
We agreed to meet on an abandoned sprawl of diseased-looking concrete near Paignton Yards. Two years ago the council condemned the surrounding buildings as unfit for human habitation, and all of them – but one – were bulldozed. The last one sticks out like a sore dick in a sauna.
Up close I can see that the door has been kicked in and the front windows have been smashed with bricks. It looks like a broken mouth beneath two empty eye sockets.
It’s a raw November evening and the stroll is deserted, apart from a pack of stray dogs with bloodshot eyes. They circle me warily, slobber dripping from their gaping jaws, but they don’t make a move. I guess they figure me for bad meat…
Larry Langham has a large, cruel mouth and a carrier bag full of blood-stained passports. Despite the cold weather he’s dressed in a tropical-print shirt and grubby chinos. Up close his skin looks raw and unpleasant – like subcutaneous fat. His fat ruby ring glints under the sodium lights. I pay him the money and he laughs in my face. Before he leaves he forces his fingers into my mouth. They taste of piss and dirt, and his ruby ring clatters against my teeth.
Carl’s car smells like an ashtray. His glove-box is full of gun magazines. He doesn’t speak much, but then again, neither do I. He lost a leg in Helmand Province, but he’s not bitter.
“Did you get them?”
He stomps the accelerator with his prosthetic foot and we re-join polite society.
The carpet at the halfway house is littered with tissues, sticky with tears and sperm. I’ve never seen so many girls in one room.
Klaudia smiles at me.
She is wearing tight white slacks and a long-sleeved lavender coloured blouse. I met her at Paignton hospital, getting broken glass removed from my feet. Her cousin Agnieszka had been badly beaten by a pimp named Edward Yang. He split her lip, bruised her spleen and broke one of her arms. The next day I hobbled down Winner Street, wounds pulsing beneath the grimy bandages on my feet. I hurt him far worse – despite almost passing out when I stomped his guts.
Klaudia and I subsequently became close, although we never fucked. Not until today, at least. She has lank, dust-coloured hair, but her pubic hair is darker and thicker than you would expect. I was surprised, but didn’t let it show.
She liked to talk, to tell me stories about her childhood in broken English. After a few months she asked me if I knew how to get hold of black-market passports. I said I did, but told her that stolen passports were far safer. She told me that she and her friends wanted to leave Paignton. Wanted to leave the brothel. I agreed to help.
The sky above Winner Street is gunmetal grey, and the icy wind has me trembling like a shitting puppy.
The middle-aged woman driving the minibus has a lurid neck tattoo and a badly creased face. She nods to me solemnly, and I nod back.
I raise my hand to wave, but it is too late.